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Plan to curb Maoist menace in gardens

Jorhat, Nov. 21: The Sivasagar district administration has prepared a plan to counter the spread of Maoist influence that will be implemented in the tea gardens by the end of this month.

Under the plan, which will be implemented in the public-private-partnership mode, centres will be set up in the gardens to disseminate information on central and state government schemes and projects.

Each centre will function under a group of volunteers, particularly youths from the gardens, along with government departments as partners.

Sivasagar deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram told The Telegraph that the plan has been prepared after taking into account the percentage of literacy, per capita life expectancy, maternal mortality and other social indicators.

These showed that the residents of tea estates were much lower in the socio-economic performance index than the state average.

He said the implementation of government development schemes in tea garden areas was relatively poor than in the other areas and there was a lack of awareness among the people about the programmes.

Moreover, the prevalence of social evils likes alcoholism, paranoia about witchcraft and of the appearance of pisal manuh (slippery man), have added to the backwardness, the deputy commissioner said.

“To overcome this backwardness and also in view of recent intelligence reports that Maoists are trying to penetrate tea garden areas of Upper Assam, an intervention is very necessary,” Sundaram said.

According to the plan, the garden management will have to provide a room near the labour lines, having the capacity to accommodate at least 50 persons.

The management should also provide a blackboard, fan, light and chairs.

The deputy commissioner said a group of nearly 10 volunteers, preferably youths of the estate who could be members of the tea tribes students’ organisation, will be selected to run the centre.

The groups will be trained by the district administration.

The management will be requested to release Rs 1,000 to every centre on a monthly basis towards expenses, for administrative and other purposes.

The deputy commissioner said officials from government departments like education, health, agriculture, sericulture, veterinary, fishery handloom would visit the centres from time to time and inform the volunteers about development schemes and programmes undertaken by the respective departments.

Sundaram said he had discussions with the different tea growers’ associations recently on the proposed plan. The response has been positive with the planters’ organisations agreeing to the plan.

He said the plan would be implemented on a pilot project basis and 15 gardens across the district have been selected for the first phase.

There are 82 registered tea gardens in the district.

Sundaram also said the district administration has planned to carry out a survey in all the gardens on the living conditions of the workers and the facilities related to health, sanitation and education in the estates.

An official of a prominent tea association said the proposed plan is a “good idea”, which, if implemented properly, would benefit the tea industry.