A placard of the New Dooars Tea Estate in the Banarhat garden. Picture by Biplab Basak
Alipurduar, Dec. 15: Work was suspended indefinitely today at an Andrew Yule tea garden in the Dooars amid management allegations that labourers had attacked an executive with pruning knives.
Labourers’ unions have denied the allegation, though one outfit admitted that there were differences between the workers and the garden management over winter working hours.
A notice put up by the New Dooars Tea Estate management — the garden in Banarhat, Jalpaiguri, is a Government of India enterprise and employs 1,700 people — said that on December 13, when the manager was speaking to workers, one of them tried to attack the executive with a pruning knife. Some workers followed him. But other executives managed to rescue the manager.
The notice read that yesterday, that is on December 14, in the morning around 7.20am, the same group of workers came to “the office of the manager”.
“When they saw the manager was not in the chamber they tried to disturb all kinds of work in the garden. They even entered inside the garden factory and vehemently tried to shut down the operations” but failed.
The notice said that “in view of repetitive incidents of lawlessness, intimidation and coercion indulged in by the section of workers”, the manager felt “insecure to stay in the garden and continue to perform his duty”.
“It, therefore, has been decided that the management has no other option but to suspend the operation of the garden with immediate effect,” the notice read.
The notice said that the management had faced repeated incidents of resistance, threat and intimidation from a section of workers.
Sanjoy Bagchi, assistant secretary of the Dooars branch of the Indian Tea Association (DBITA), said: “Unnecessarily a section of workers on 13th December tried to attack Leonard Smith, the manager. Yesterday, again the same group of workers were roaming in front of the garden office with pruning knives in hand and tried to disrupt all work in the garden. The situation actually forced the management to take such a decision.”
But Dilip Dorji, the president of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers, said: “ On Friday there was a little misunderstanding between a section of workers and the manager regarding the pruning hours and an altercation took place but no worker attacked the manager with a knife.”