Silchar, July 31: The Cachar district administration has at last cracked the whip on the erring tea estate of Craigpark, 30km west of this town, for its alleged “wilful inability to pay the legitimate dues to its over 500 workers”.
The administration has asked its owners to clear at least half of the unpaid dues to the tune of Rs 60 lakh within the next 10 days.
Since January 2001, plantation owner Sree Kamakhya Tea Company Private Limited, headquartered in Calcutta, has been regularly defaulting on the payment of the provident fund and gratuity dues of superannuated workers.
The district administration’s payment directive to the defaulting company was announced yesterday afternoon at a high-level meeting convened by Cachar deputy commissioner H.K. Deb Mahanta at his office chamber.
The meeting was attended by additional deputy commissioner Debashish Chakravarty, the secretary of the Barak valley branch of the Tea association of India (TAI), Kalyan Mitra, assistant labour commissioner K. Singson and some senior officials of the development offices of Cachar district.
The managing director of the defaulting company, Shiva Konoi, however, could not attend the meeting. Mitra told the district administration that Konoi’s wife had told him about the ailing condition of her husband in Calcutta.
Deb Mahanta, however, made it clear that if the company fails to clear at least half the workers’ retirement dues (Rs 30 lakh), the administration would be forced to sell some of the garden utilities. Craigpark’s annual output of CTC tea product is estimated at 1,75,000kg.
The district administration has also sought to restore the financial profile of this tea estate and also to ensure the improvement of some of the regular welfare measures for its employees and workers.
In a separate order, Deb Mahanta asked the garden management to arrange Rs 8lakh soon to pay to the Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB). The garden owes Rs 14 lakh to the ASEB. The DC also said the district health office would hold a health mela in the garden on August 8 to check the health of its workers and arrange for medicines free of cost.
He said his office has granted Rs 15 lakh to build three roads inside the garden and sanctioned the building of an additional 75 houses for the labourers under the Indira Awas Yojana as the present labour tenements inside this garden are now in a dilapidated condition.
The public health engineering department in the district has also been directed by Deb Mahanta to build 40 toilets for the workers inside the garden, for which the garden management has agreed to pay Rs 12,000.