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One dead in shut estate

- Administration sends health team after death reports

Jalpaiguri. July 2: The district administration alarmed by the recent worker deaths in closed tea gardens in Jalpaiguri today sent a medical team to the shut Red Bank Tea Estate in Dhupguri block after a labourer died this morning.

The team has ruled out malnutrition as a reason for the Red Bank worker’s death and said he died of jaundice.

Yesterday, a team of doctors from North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri visited the closed Raipur tea garden, also in Jalpaiguri district, where six labourers had died in one week.

Usually, medical teams visit Red Bank thrice a week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and Raipur twice a week — Fridays and Saturdays.

This morning, after Shekhar Narjinari, 40, died at the Upper Line of Red Bank, a team was sent to see if any other worker needed medical attention. The team checked with the workers of two labour lines.

Sadhan Sarkar, block medical officer of health of Dhupguri, who visited Red Bank today, said: “The worker was being treated for the past few months. He was asked to stay away from liquor but he did not pay heed. He was suffering from jaundice for 12 days and was admitted to Birpara hospital two-three times.”

Jalpaiguri district magistrate Pritha Sarkar said: “The death was because of jaundice. We are monitoring workers of the closed tea gardens. We have to ensure that they are more aware. They should visit doctors and listen to them. We are sending rations to the gardens and work under the 100 days’ job scheme is on.”

Debabrata Pal, the head clerk of Red Bank, said Shekhar had no money to carry on treatment. “He had been treated at the health centre at Banarhat and the state general hospital in Birpara. He could not afford to go to Banarhat, 16km away, for further treatment. A round trip in car costs at least Rs 600. Fare to the state general hospital in Birpara, about 35km away, is about Rs 2,000. He used to stay with his wife and son.”

Three gardens of Red Bank Group, Dharanipur, Red Bank and Surendranagar estates, were shut in 2003 and since then, 42 workers have died. “In the past 11 years, 28 workers died in Red Bank (including Shekhar), eight in Dharanipur and six in Surendranagar. We haven’t been getting work under the 100 days’ scheme since April. There are 886 workers in Red Bank, 314 in Surendranagar and 357 in Dharanipur gardens,” Pal said.

He said on June 28, he met Sarkar. “The three estates had reopened on March 31, 2011 and closed in October 2013. When the administration tried to run the gardens by someone else, our owner Calcutta-based Rabin Pal obtained a stay order. The management owes over Rs 6 crore as dues to workers. The DM had promised to look into our problems.”