| Trying times
Jorhat, Nov. 9: Arrest warrants have been issued against the management of at least five tea estates in Jorhat district for defaulting in deposit of provident fund of labourers.
Sources said a few of the beneficiaries and their nominees had already died.
The warrants were issued on November 3 against the manager of Lakhibari and Bamunibari tea estates (common ownership) and managers of Salalbari, Kamalpur and Murmuria estates.
Jorhat bakijai officer Gurdeep Singh Panesar said the Lakhibari estate has a number of cases pending against it in the bakijai branch at the deputy commissioner’s office here.
The different amounts the management has failed to deposit are Rs 44,703, Rs 50,000, Rs 114,109, Rs 23,376, Rs 54,588, Rs 30,263, Rs 3,951, Rs 10,952, Rs 103,762 and Rs 53,533.
The Murmuria estate owes Rs 63,754, Salalbari Rs 324,859, Kamalpur Rs 11,24,922 and the Bamunibari management Rs 42,254, Rs 546, Rs 3,010, Rs 30,129, Rs 4,530, Rs 25,655 and Rs 4,404.
Panesar said PF defaulting cases have been pending against several gardens here for several years and notices had been issued for paying up the amounts but the gardens had failed to respond or pay any amount, which led to the arrest warrants being issued.
“While many gardens have sought time and some others are paying in instalments, the five gardens have not appeared in any of the hearings despite repeated notices.”
Panesar said in a few cases, the beneficiaries had retired a long time back and some workers and their nominees had also died. “We have informed police and they will arrest and produce them before us.”
The officer-in-charge of Jorhat police station, however, said a notice had been received in this regard from the bakijai department but no arrests had been made.
The Jorhat official of Assam Tea Plantation Provident Fund which deals with such cases said the owner of Lakhibari and Bamunibari estates now resided in Tezpur and his son who looked after the gardens was elusive and often changed his mobile numbers. Regarding the Murmuria and Kamalpur estates, he said they had got some response but a notice had been given from the PF commissioner’s office to file a case against the Kamalpur estate.
Another official said the five tea estates, which were members of Assam Tea Plan-ters Association, are now no longer part of the association owing to their defaulter status and being loss-making gardens.