After allegedly stealing almost Rs 350 crore of poorest of the poor tea garden workers, and defaulting Rs 30 crore of Provident Fund (PF) dues, the GP Goenka owned Duncans Group is now planning to take over Rugabano, a tea garden in Africa’s Rwanda.
According to top level sources, GP Goenka is in advance stage of negotiation to acquire a big tea garden in Rwanda. This news has created serious anger among the state administration that GP Goenka Group on behalf of one of its companies Duncans Group had submitted a bid to acquire Rugabano tea garden in Rwanda which is a Greenfield project. According to information, GP Goenka Group will have to invest Rs 100 crore in order to run this tea garden. The company has already defaulted Rs 350 crore of tea garden workers.
Following the West Bengal government’s order, the CID has started a criminal case against the company. During the investigation, the officials laid their hands on crucial documents, which have hinted at image scale of misappropriation of funds.
A complaint was filed with the Darjeeling district police last month, alleging cheating and criminal misappropriation of properties by the firm. This case has been transferred to CID.
Duncans, which produces around 15 million kg of tea a year, had shut plantations in West Bengal’s Dooars region through the key plucking season of June-September. The future of an estimated 25,000 people who work at these estates now hang in the balance. Duncans has some 16,000 permanent workers at its gardens across 7,500 hectares; the rest are temporary workers.
Goenka, whose Duncans has two more estates in the hills of Darjeeling, blamed the closure of his plantations in Dooars on non-availability of workers.
Under pressure from the state government, Duncans has lately been trying to resolve the impasse, but even so, Goenka admits he has at least one-and-a-half months of back wages to pay.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has already reached north Bengal to assess the situation. She is expected to address tea garden workers within days.