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Two deaths in closed estate

Bharnobari Tea Estate (Alipurduar), March 2: Even as some funds trickled into Raimatang, Chinchula and Kalchini tea estates, the condition of the locked-out Bharnobari continues to be as bleak as ever.

Two persons have died at the Bharnobari estate over the past 24 hours, taking the toll to 72 since its closure in December 2005.

Laxman Munda (48) of Bharnobari out-division died yesterday, while Binu Kharia (32), a resident of Jonathan line, died this morning. According to medical reports, both were suffering from malnutrition. Binu used to stay all by himself as his wife, Jayanti, works in Delhi and their son stays with a relative.

With the 2,250 labourers not getting paid for more than a year, the families can hardly hope to have one square meal a day, let alone treatment for ailments. Six residents here, including three children were admitted to the Latabari health centre yesterday suffering from malnutrition.

Just to make ends meet, a few labourers have been forced to take up jobs in dolomite quarries in Bhutan, while some others have left for other parts of the country for work.

Tapan Nag, the secretary of Swadhikar, an NGO, said: “Under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, workers of closed gardens are supposed to get 100 days’ work, but labourers here got work for 26 days only and received wages for 21 days.”

According to Nag, Antyodaya cards have not been distributed among labourers as a result of which everyone is not getting equal amount of foodgrain. P.D. Pradhan, the subdivisional officer, however, said: “Though the cards have not been distributed, the workers have been receiving ration regularly.”

A team of Krishi Jami Raksha Committee from Calcutta visited the garden today as part of their survey of closed estates in the Dooars.

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