Fifth Duncan tea garden reopens today as 7,000 workers breathe sigh of relief
Kolkata: The state government's initiative has ensured reopening of four tea gardens in Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri, while another one will be reopened on Thursday. Reopening of the tea gardens will give back the means of livelihood to around 7,000 tea garden workers.
The five tea gardens are out of the seven belonging to the Duncan Group, which were later taken over by the Centre in 2016.
But the Centre had lost a case in the Calcutta High Court and subsequently, the state government had arranged a tripartite meeting which helped reopening of the tea gardens.
Moloy Ghatak, the state Labour minister, said: "Four tea gardens have already reopened and another one will be reopening on Thursday. It will help around 7,000 tea garden workers get back to work."
The four tea gardens which have already reopened are in Birpara, Dhumchipara, Hantapara and Gorganda. The one which will be reopened on Thursday is in Demdima, where 1,606 tea gardens are present.
It may be recalled that the Centre had taken over seven closed tea gardens of the Duncan Group. But they had lost the court case and there was no subsequent move from the end of the Union government.
So, the Duncan Group is once again reopening the gardens, following a tripartite meeting in which all issues related to pending wages of workers and other benefits have been discussed.
The state government has made it clear that the workers should get wages or salaries of the current months and the pending amount will be given to them in instalments.
The two other closed tea gardens of the Duncan Group that the Centre had taken over are also in Alipurduar and initiatives will be taken to reopen them as well.
Ghatak said: "Workers had not got anything from the Centre after they took over the gardens." The minister further said that till 2011, the minimum wage of tea garden workers was Rs 67. After the change of guard in the state, it was increased to Rs 95 in 2011.
Later, it was further increased to Rs 132.50. Now, the proposal has been given to increase Rs 12.50 for an interim period. The final decision on the increase of the minimum wage by Rs 12.50, which will take it to Rs 150, will be taken in a tripartite meeting that is scheduled to be held on March 12.
Moreover, the state Labour department has brought a total of 93.87 lakh workers from the unorganised sector, under the social security scheme.