| Konapathar tea estate |
Jorhat, March 1: The Tinsukia district administration has decided to offer an alternative source of employment to workers of Konapathar tea estate in the district, which has remained closed since December 26 last year.
The estate, located along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, was closed following the killing of the owner Mridul Kumar Bhattacharjee and his wife Reeta by a group of labourers. A lockout was declared in the garden on January 5 this year since no one from the management could go to the estate because of security reasons.
The administration has collected names of the workers’ families through Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) in order to provide job cards to the workers so they could be engaged under MGNREGA.
Tinsukia deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram told The Telegraph over phone today the administration has collected the names and other details of family members of the estate workers with an aim to provide some kind of relief to them.
Sundaram said the list of details has been given by the Margherita unit of the ACMS and after observing the necessary formalities, they will allot job cards so the labourers who were facing hardships owing to no work could be engaged in various MGNREGA schemes under way in nearby areas.
There were about 500 families of both permanent and casual workers in the estate. Sundaram said they would also distribute essential food items at subsidised rates to the workers through ACMS members.
The union’s Margherita unit secretary Hari Nandan Gour said it was unfortunate that workers were suffering.
Welcoming the initiative, Gour said they had earlier urged the administration to offer some “kind of relief” to workers who were facing enormous difficulties.
Sundaram said they are keeping a close watch on the estate with a police picket and senior police and civil officials visiting Konapathar from time to time.
Administration sources said owing to an internal tussle among the three children of the deceased planter over the ownership, the reconciliatory talks between the management and the workers under mediation of the administration has not been able to take place in spite of several earlier attempts.
The two younger siblings — Rishi Bhattacharjee and his sister Sreejaya Bhattacharjee Godfrey — both NRIs who had rushed back after the killings — moved Calcutta High Court for their share of the estate.
The last reconciliation meeting was convened on Wednesday in which management representatives did not turn up.
Tinsukia assistant labour commissioner B.C. Deka today said over phone that no one from the management side came, neither was any intimation sent to his office for their absence.
Deka said the reason cited for not attending another such meeting convened on February 5 was that the case filed by the two siblings in Calcutta High Court was sub-judice. In a letter dated January 15, written to Deka, both Rishi and Sreejaya had said: “We are not any nearer to reaching a settlement in the internal affairs of the company, therefore no one from Konapathar estate can attend the reconciliation meeting.”
The elder brother, Autri Bhattacharjee, had in a letter to Deka on January 21 claimed he was the director of the estate and Rishi and Sreejaya were neither directors nor employed by the company.