Alipurduar, Nov. 18: A survey by the state health department has found 15 people in the Nepania division of the closed Dheklapara Tea Estate have serious ailments and has recommended their admission to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital for free treatment.
The health survey was conducted following the death of 15 people in the garden in the past two months. Most of them belonged to this particular division.
The garden has been shut since 2002.
“I can’t deny that the situation in Dheklapara is grave. The estate has been in bad shape for 10 years. I had instructed the Jalpaiguri district magistrate to conduct a door-to-door-survey in the Nepania division of the plantation and it was found that 15 people need urgent treatment. They will soon be admitted to NBMCH and hopefully, they will be cured,” north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb said here today during a tour of Alipurduar.
According to sources, 15 people died in the garden because of diseases and suspected malnutrition.
The minister said the Trinamul Congress government was giving top priority to the welfare of the people in closed tea gardens.
“I have visited Dheklapara several times in the past 18 months. Even before coming to power in the state, Mamata Banerjee had visited four closed tea gardens in the Dooars. She is concerned about the plight of workers in Dheklapara. The people of Dheklapara are now getting rations and FAWLOI (financial assistance for workers of locked out industries) on time,” he said.
“Cooked food is also being distributed for elderly people and electricity and drinking water supply has been restored in the main division. I have given instructions to restore electricity and drinking water in Nepania at the earliest.”
The minister said he would go to the garden again.
“Although many people are getting rations, they can’t cook because of old age. We will find a solution to that problem. I have noticed that those who crossed the age of 58 are not getting FAWLOI. I will visit Dheklapara soon. The government is determined to ensure that no one is in the garden without food.”
He alleged that Alipurduar MP and Madarihat MLA — both belong to the RSP — had done nothing to help the workers of Dheklapara.
According to the garden dwellers, only 12 families in Nepania are in the BPL category.
“Had all families been in the BPL category, houses would have been built for them under the Indira Awas Yojana. When two employees of the health department visited the garden last week for a survey, many workers were not at home. They were busy breaking boulders. Otherwise, the number of people who need treatment would have reached 15,” said Sina Oraon, a 16-year-old girl in the division.
The girl has studied till Class IX and takes free tuition for garden children. She also takes ailing people to Birpara hospital for treatment.
Sina said the garden people suffered privations.
“There is no facility for treatment; no electricity, no pure drinking water, no old age pension, no widow allowance, no cooked food. Many are not getting FAWLOI either. If anybody is denied the FAWLOI because of age, then they should get old age pension. But they are getting nothing. Besides, we face threats from wild elephants. A number of huts have been damaged by wild elephants,” said Sina.