‘State to launch SOP to run closed tea gardens temporarily’

‘State to launch SOP to run closed tea gardens temporarily’

Kolkata: The state government is coming up with standard operating procedure (SOP) to ensure responsibility of a tea garden after its sudden closure can be temporarily assigned to a party so that the workers do not have to suffer.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has constituted a GOM (group of ministers) for formulation of the SOP in consultation with the state Advocate General. Moloy Ghatak, state Law and Labour minister, is the chairman of the GOM that has state Agriculture minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, state Food and Supplies minister Rathin Ghosh, state Industries and Commerce minister Shashi Panja and state Backward Classes Welfare minister Buluchik Baraik. The two other members are Anit Thapa, president, Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha and MP Prakash Chik Baraik.

“Four meetings of the GOM were held and we are hopeful that it will not be too long before we come up with the SOP which will benefit the tea garden workers. The interest of the workers is our priority. The SOP will provide a guideline on how we can assign temporary responsibility to somebody for running the tea garden in case of sudden closure,” Ghatak said. There have been instances of lessees running away suddenly, issuing closure orders for tea gardens. Moreover, when a lease of a tea garden expires, it takes ample time to complete proceedings for roping in the lessee. During this period the garden remains closed causing hardship to the workers. Previously, the Tea Board had the power to intervene in such unforeseen situations but that too has been withdrawn leading to suffering of the workers.

Labour department sources said presently 16 tea gardens are closed in North Bengal out of which 10 were being run by Darjeeling Organic Tea Estates Pvt Ltd (DOTPL). The owners of these 10 tea gardens suddenly left, abandoning the tea gardens and a case is pending with the National Company Law Tribunal.

Another four tea gardens, including Red Bank, Dharampur are under liquidation. One tea garden has been closed since 2002. “All the closed tea gardens are involved in litigation,” an official said.

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