Workers in several tea estates in North Bengal on Friday protested against new guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), claiming that the new rules will destroy the industry and lead to workers losing their jobs.
The apex bank had recently instructed that without intimating it large sums of money cannot be transferred to the managements of tea gardens in north Bengal.
After demonetisation, the limit on bulk cash withdrawals has come in the way of wage payments.
Financial hardships continue to plague over three lakh tea garden workers in north Bengal.
Wages haven’t been disbursed to tea plantation workers at Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri, after the respective administrations refused to disburse money to tea garden managements in the two
districts, citing absence of RBI guidelines.
A window mentioned in an RBI directive says that money can be withdrawn from government accounts beyond a stipulated ceiling only in exceptional cases.
An official said it was agreed that planters could deposit money through cheque or electronic transfers to accounts of District Magistrates. They would then issue cheques to the management.
However, administrative officials in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar said that even though the state Finance department had cleared the matter, “there are no directives from RBI so far regarding how much
money could be paid to gardens via cheque”.
“Some gardens have transferred their money for wage payments to our accounts. But there are no directives from RBI clearly explaining how much money can be paid to the gardens via cheque. This puts us in a difficult situation because private money can’t be delivered through government accounts,” an official said.
It may be recalled that demonetisation has so far hit the work culture of various industrial sectors, notwithstanding tea trade in north Bengal.
The scrapping Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes has brought out a serious challenge to the tea industry as managements of several plantations are in a fix as to pay the labourers on time.
Meanwhile, labourers who have received wages recently do not know what to do with the invalid notes. These issues have caused several problems or tea garden owners.
Meanwhile, representatives of tea gardens met bank officials on Friday. The officials made it clear that as per the directive, the ceiling of cash withdrawal from any bank is same for all types of accounts. Hence, the garden owners have to abide by the norms.
The tea garden authorities claim they want to exchange the money they have and can get the money for the labourers’ salary. But the labourers are unwilling to wait for it.