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Discord keeps tea estate shut

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Jorhat, Feb. 1: Differences among members of the family that owns Konapathar tea estate in Tinsukia district have prevented its reopening.

The tea estate under Bordumsa police station has remained closed since labourers killed its owner Mridul Kumar Bhattacharjee and his wife Reeta on December 26.

A lockout was declared on January 5 as none from the management could go to the estate because of security reasons.

Sources in Tinsukia administration said alleged bickering between Bhattacharjee’s two sons and daughter over reopening of the estate has also contributed to the uncertainty.

One son, Autri Bhattacharjee, is a director of Shreejaya Tea & Industries, the company that owns the estate, while the other son, Rishi Bhattacharjee, and daughter Sreejaya Bhattacharjee Godfrey are NRIs living in Canada and the US respectively.

Both Rishi and Sreejaya, who rushed to Tinsukia after the ghastly killings, have reportedly claimed an equal say in the matters of the company.

In a letter dated January 15, 2013, written to Tinsukia assistant labour commissioner (ALC) B.C. Deka, they said, “We are not any nearer to reaching a settlement in the internal affairs of the company, therefore no one from Konapathar T.E. can attend the reconciliation meeting convened by the ALC on January 17.”

They have also set the condition of holding such talks in future on the lawn of the garden bungalow where their parents were killed.

They have signed the letter, which is in possession of The Telegraph, in the capacity of son and daughter of late Mridul Kumar Bhattacharjee and Reeta Bhattacharjee.

Another letter, also in possession of The Telegraph, written by Autri to the assistant labour commissioner on January 21 in the capacity of the director of Konapathar tea estate states that Rishi and Sreejaya were neither directors of nor in the employment of the company.

Two reconciliation meetings convened by the labour department on January 10 and 17 at the assistant labour commissioner’s office to discuss the reopening of the garden had failed to make a start as representatives from the management failed to turn up.

Deka said he had invited the management and the Margherita and garden units of the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha at another meeting on February 5.

He said all the parties have to attend the meeting to make the talks meaningful and successful.

ACMS Margherita unit secretary Hari Nandan Gour said it was unfortunate that workers were suffering because of the delay in reopening the garden because of the tussle among the siblings.


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