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Calcutta hope for closed gardens

Alipurduar, Dec. 18: Around 20 workers from the closed tea gardens of Dheklapara, Dalmore and Ramjhora in the Dooars will be taken to Calcutta on Friday by Anuradha Talwar, the advisor from the state to the food commissioner of Supreme Court, to meet Partha Chatterjee and higher officials to look into the labourer’s problems.

This is the first time that people from the three closed gardens are going to Calcutta to meet the industries minister and higher officials to discuss their plight.

“We are bringing a group of 20 persons from the three tea gardens of Dheklapara (shut since 2002), Dalmore (shut since July 2012) and Ramjhora Tea Estate (reopened two years ago after remaining shut for eight years) to Calcutta. On December 21 they will meet minister Partha Chatterjee, the nodal officer appointed by the Supreme Court in Bengal and the secretary of the labour department,” said Talwar.

“I have already submitted a report on the closed Dheklapara and Dalmore tea garden to the state government. There is no buyer to purchase Dheklapara as the garden is in a deplorable condition. I have proposed that the state government with the help of the Tea Board should take over Dheklapara. The government is as it is spending at least Rs 1 crore every year for the people in Dheklapara. With the Tea Board the government should take charge of the garden for at least for five years and invest the same amount. After five years when the garden will be in a better condition buyers will show interest,” she added.

Talwar also said the Calcutta High Court on Friday would be hearing the case regarding Dheklapara going on between the Tea Board and the Punjab National Bank. The garden is in liquidation and the previous owner owes dues to Punjab National Bank. Only after the dues are settled, will the official liquidator who is in charge of the garden, sell it to a new buyer.

Sina Oraon, a 25-year-old girl from Dheklapara who recently submitted a survey report to the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri is also going to Calcutta.

She said: “I met the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri and now I will meet the higher officials in Calcutta. We will appeal to the government to reopen the garden otherwise the people in our garden will not be able to survive. We will talk about the faulty BPL list, drinking water shortage, huts being in a deplorable condition, non payment of widow allowance, irregular payment of old age pension, and the reduction in the quantity of rice among other things.”