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Garden shut, staff seek rural scheme
- Labourers of Bamandanga-Tondu demand alternative livelihood, manager of Grassmore gheraoed

Oct. 10: Over 1,500 workers of the closed Bamandanga-Tondu Tea Estate today asked the government to provide them with alternative livelihood under the Centre’s 100-day job scheme and sought transport facilities for their children to go to school.

The management had announced suspension of work in the garden on Monday following an agitation by the labourers for a higher rate of Puja bonus. Despite the closure, the workers plucked tea leaves yesterday, probably sensing that a shut garden before the Puja is worse than the non-payment of bonus.

Today, the workers submitted a memorandum to the joint block development officer of Nagrakata, demanding the immediate intervention of the government. “We have asked for the introduction of the 100-day work scheme in the garden as an alternative employment. We have also demanded transport facilities for our children to attend classes and proper medical facilities,” said Swapan Barua, the vice-president of the garden unit of the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union.

The labourers felt that with the shutdown of the estate, they had no wages or bonus to run the families. “If the Centre’s job scheme is launched in the garden to build roads or dig ponds, we can earn some money at the end of the day. The children are not getting transport facilities and the only doctor in the garden hospital has left after the suspension notice was put up,” said a worker. Sources said a meeting would be held in the joint labour commissioner’s office in Siliguri on October 12 to discuss the re-opening of Samsing and Bamandanga-Tondu tea gardens. Samsing had also suspended work on Monday following labourers’ persistent demand for the higher bonus.

In another development, a group of women labourers gheraoed the manager of Grassmore tea garden, Moloy Moitra, for over two hours today, demanding bonus at the rate of 20 per cent of their annual wages. A garden official said the estate would be shut down if the workers resorted to such protests again.

Free meal

The state government resumed the free distribution of cooked meals under the Sahay scheme to the elderly people in the closed Dheklapara tea garden on Wednesday, reports our Alipurduar correspondent. The scheme was stopped on the estate for two months because of funds crunch. Around 260 aged people received the free lunch on Wednesday. Food minister Jyotipriya Mullick ordered the officials to start the distribution of meals again.