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Panchayat gets cash to clear garden dues

Bharnobari Tea Estate. File picture

Alipurduar Aug. 3: The Malangi panchayat office, which was locked up on Wednesday by 300 tea garden labourers who did not get wages under the rural job scheme even four months after the work, received Rs 30 lakh today for the clearing the dues.

The workers of Bharnobari Tea Estate are likely to get their wages on Monday.

“We received Rs 30 lakh (from the district headquarters) this afternoon for the payment of workers under NREGS (the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme). The work was done in March. We did not have the funds to pay the wages,” said Joseph Kujur, the deputy pradhan of Malangi panchayat.

“We will issue a cheque for the full amount to the local post office from where the money will be transferred to individual accounts of the workers. We will finish the paper work by tomorrow and pay the workers on Monday,” he said.

Kujur added that the panchayat was yet to receive Rs 37 lakh for paying other workers under the rural job scheme.

“We do not know when we will receive that amount,” he said.

On August 2, The Telegraph had reported that around 300 workers of Bharnobari Tea Estate in Kalchini block had locked up the panchayat office at Malangi on the previous day demanding payment of wages.

About 1,800 garden labourers had worked for 14 days under the NREGS in March. The daily wage under the job scheme is Rs 130 and for 14 day’s work, each labourer has to get Rs 1,820.

According to the provision of the scheme, labourers should get the payment within 15 days of the completion of work.

The garden workers had locked up the panchayat office indefinitely and said they would block the SAARC Road to Bhutan if the dues were not cleared in three days.

“On July 23, we met the BDO of Kalchini and asked him to make the payment in seven days. But nothing was done and we were forced to lock up the Malangi panchayat office. Today the pradhan has gave it in writing that the workers would get the payment in a couple of days. We withdrew the protest after the assurance. We expect to receive the amount by Monday,” said Rajkamal Bhagat, a worker of Bharnobari tea garden.

Kalchini BDO Chandrasen Khati said: “There was a problem in uploading the details of the workers (in the computers) which delayed the payment. The funds have been released and the workers will get the payment soon. The labourers blamed the pradhan without any reason.”