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Management riders to reopen Dalmore

- Demands for unions to condemn official’s murder & police picket in tea garden

Alipurduar, April 28: The management of Dalmore Tea Estate has put forward five conditions before the labour department for the reopening of the garden that has been shut since March 27 following the murder of an assistant manager by a worker.

The estate owned by the Calcutta-based Malnadi Tea Company Ltd is near Birpara in Alipurduar subdivision. Ajit Panwar, 45, was hacked to death allegedly by Subhan Rana in a sequel to a quarrel between the assistant manager and the latter’s wife on March 27.

Rupinder Singh Ranawat, the general manager of Malnadi Tea Company Ltd, said the five demands had been placed before the deputy labour commissioner of Jalpaiguri on Friday. “Our first condition for the reopening of Dalmore is that all operating trade unions in the garden must condemn the official’s murder unconditionally and exert pressure on police for the arrest of the third accused in the case. Second, the trade unions on behalf of workers, must promise us in writing that they will maintain law and order in the garden. The third condition is that there should be police picketing on the estate for one year to build confidence among managers. Fourth, no labourer will be allowed to carry arms like khukuri during work and there will be people at every entry point to check if anyone has weapons. Lastly, the electricity department should restore the power connection to the plantation,” said Ranawat.

Sabitri, the wife of alleged attacker Rana, had come to section 18 of the estate for work 30 minutes late on March 27. Panwar told Sabitri that since she was late, she would be assigned work in another section. But Sabitri insisted that she be allowed to work in section 18. Panwar refused to heed Sabitri’s demand. The woman told the assistant manager that she would show him what she could do to him and left the spot.

After some time, Sabitri’s husband, Subhan, reached Section 18, along with his 17-year-old son, Aman. Subhan attacked Panwar with a khukuri at least 20 times and the official died on the spot.

Rana’s wife Sabitri and son Aman are also accused in the case. Although Rana and Sabitri were arrested, Aman is still absconding.

Gopal Prodhan, the president of the Dooars Cha Bagan Worker’s Union, said his labour wing had already condemned the incident. “If necessary, we are ready to condemn the murder again in writing. It is imperative that peace is maintained in the garden under any circumstance,” he said.

Four trade unions operate in Dalmore, located 78km from Alipurduar.

The deputy labour commissioner of Jalpaiguri has convened a meeting of the Dalmore management and trade unions on May 6 to discuss the reopening of the estate.