The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Free legal aid for tea zone
- Lok Adalats in the Terai to help garden residents

Siliguri, Dec. 5: Free legal assistance will now be available to tea garden workers in the Terai region. For the first time, the sufferings and grievances of the workers and their families will be collected in a door-to-door drive under the aegis of the district legal services authority.

Giving details of the programme, Darjeeling district judge Barun Chandra Pal today said based on a directive from Calcutta High Court Legal Services Committee, several NGOs have been appointed for the collection drive.

The data collected will then be recorded by the district legal services authority, of which the district judge is the chairman, and forwarded to the high court committee, which will scrutinise it.

The valid cases would then be heard at a special Lok Adalat to be held at a convenient location on a date to be fixed by the court. “All the legal expenses would be taken care of by the district legal service authority,” he said.

The types of problems that could be amicably solved through these efforts include those related to unemployment, provident fund payments in gardens and health and marital issues.

The NGOs that will be carrying out the door-to-door collection of grievances include Hnaf, Bhoruka, West Bengal Voluntary Health Association, Cini (North Bengal), NIDS, Sangobaddho, District Legal Aid Forum and the Institute for Plantation Agricultural and Rural Workers.

The entire exercise is being carried out on the instructions of National Legal Services Authority, which has asked high courts of all states to conduct such programmes. “In addition to holding general Lok Adalats, specific areas where problems may arise, especially in households with less than Rs 50,000 annual income, are being taken up separately,” Pal explained.

For example, the high court committee has asked the district authorities in Malda and Murshidabad to find out the grievances of those families affected by erosion. Similarly, the problems of women, children and fishermen in the Sunderbans are also being collected.

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