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Cong plea on tea estates

Calcutta, Dec. 6: Congress and Trinamul Congress legislators today urged the government to form an all-party committee to take effective steps to re-open the closed tea gardens of north Bengal.

Congress legislators Asit Mitra, Nepal Mahato, Paban Lakhra, Abu Hena and Mostaque Alam moved a motion in the House expressing concern that the families of workers of 22 closed tea gardens were starving and did not even have water.

The workers had been living without electricity and medicines, they said and urged the government to provide them adequate relief.

“Several hundred workers and their family members have already died without food and medicines. The owners of tea gardens did not invest enough funds to increase production and have also failed to take steps to revive tea auction. This House feels it necessary to include the names of the tea garden workers in the below-poverty line list and arrange for financial assistance to the families of the deceased workers,” the motion said.

The motion was supported by Trinamul Congress MLAs. Left Front members did not support the motion, but admitted that a crisis was brewing in the tea industry, causing considerable hardship to thousands of tea garden workers.

The motion also expressed concern over the incident at Dalgaon tea estate, where 19 workers had recently been burnt to death.

Mitra called for joint efforts to save the tea industry and its workers.

“I appeal to all political parties not to play games with the lives of the tea garden workers, but come forward to save them,” he said.

Supporting the motion, leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee said he had information about starvation deaths of 496 workers in the 22 closed gardens.

“Tea garden owners have remained indifferent to the unbearable condition of thousands of workers. But neither the state government nor the district administration has taken effective steps to help them,” he said.

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