Tea estate workers take matter in their own hands, reopen garden
Failing to fight any further against poverty, workers of Naya Saili tea estate at Nagrakata has opened the tea garden on Saturday after it remained closed for around two months. They initiated the work with a plan to sell out the green tea leaves they cultivate to the open market to earn their livelihoods.
The workers took the decision as the owner of the tea gardens had remained silent for the past two months and neither gave their due Puja bonuses nor their weekly payments. Finding that there was no other way out to earn their livelihood, the workers had taken up the responsibilities in their own hands and decided to initiate pruning of plants.
According to a tea garden worker, pruning of plants is done at this time of the year or else the quality of new leaves in the coming season would not be of good quality. “We are giving labour from now so that there is a better yield after a few months. We will continue working as we keep doing round the year. The only difference would be we would not prick leaves this time for the tea garden owner. Instead we will be selling the same in the market.
Later the workers will get their share of money,” said the worker. It may be recalled that the tea garden had closed on October 24 following trouble between the workers and tea garden authorities. The manager of the garden had left the place soon after the trouble and the workers had no one to enquire about the stand of the garden owner. Moreover, despite giving assurance of reopening the garden several times in the past two and a half months, no such steps were taken.
In a tripartite meeting, 16 per cent of the monthly payment of a worker was decided as the bonus before Durga Puja. Interestingly, the tea garden authorities had later stated that they would be able to give 10 per cent of the pay as bonus. The workers had agreed but neither their payment was given nor the tea garden reopened. Finally the authorities agreed to give 8.33 per cent bonus. But the workers would be getting it in March 2017. Moreover, many workers would also get the Provident Fund and gratuity that is due for the past 12 years. As a result, the tea garden authorities had failed to reopen the garden and at present the workers have taken the charge of it.