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Garden neglect finger at state

Alipurduar, Oct. 9: A Supreme Court-appointed activist who looks after closed tea gardens in Bengal today visited four estates in Dooars and said the “state government is not doing much for the workers”.

After visiting Dheklapara garden that has been shut since 2002, Anuradha Talwar said: “During February-March Gautam Deb (north Bengal development minister) and Jyotipriyo Mallick (food minister) assured the workers that the estate would be reopened soon. But nothing happened. Old People are getting pensions after 6-7 months,” said Talwar.

The garden, 72km from here, has 600 workers.

“During the Left Front regime, the present ministers (in the Opposition then) claimed that every death in Dheklapara was because of starvation. As soon as they came to power, they are saying no one died of starvation here,” she said.

Sources said eight persons have died in Dheklapara since May last year.

“Recently, two persons died here. The workers were getting food once a day under the Sahay Project. But the scheme is not operating for the past two months,” said Talwar who was appointed in 2004.

“The state government should take over the garden.”

The activist also visited Ramjhora, Dalmore and Bamandanga-Todu gardens today.

“In Dalmore, workers have not been getting ration after the management left. I have asked the workers to talk to the administration. Either the owner returns, or the workers will sell tea leaves,” Talwar said.

The garden in Jalpaiguri district has been shut since July.

“In Ramjhora, workers are not getting medical facilities although the garden reopened two years ago. Workers said they were better off during the closure period as they were getting money and ration under the financial assistance for workers of locked-out industry (FAWLOI) scheme. If management fails, the state should provide basic amenities. Otherwise where will the they go?”

The garden was shut in 2002 and it reopened in October 2010.

Jalpaiguri district magistrate Smaraki Mahapatra said: “Sahay Project in Dheklapara stopped because of funds crisis. We are trying to start it soon.”

Food minister Mallick said: “I am not ready to accept that people have died in Dheklapara because of starvation. I will visit the garden on October 15.”