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Left & Cong twin tea tours

Calcutta, July 3: The Left and the Congress have decided to send their teams to a closed tea garden in Jalpaiguri where six persons have died of suspected malnutrition over the past week, following which Trinamul has announced a similar move.

A five-member team of Left MLAs led by RSP veteran and former minister Subhas Naskar left for north Bengal today. They would visit the Raipur tea garden tomorrow. A 13-member Congress delegation is expected to leave tomorrow.

Trinamul announced this evening that it had asked two MPs from Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri and three MLAs from Japaiguri to visit the garden and submit a report “soon”.

“Our team will assess the situation. They will recommend measures for improving the condition of the closed tea-garden and its workers,” said Saurabh Chakraborty, the Alipurduar district Trinamul president.

Apart from the political parties, a delegation of all central trade unions, including Citu, Intuc and the BJP-backed Bharat Mazdoor Sangh, will meet workers at the garden tomorrow.

Before leaving for Jalpaiguri, the Left today accused the Mamata Banerjee government of doing little to stop “starvation” deaths in the Raipur tea garden.

“The workers in the closed tea garden have been suffering for long. The state government has done nothing to improve their lives and is now denying the starvation deaths. We are going on to find out all,” said RSP MLA Naskar.

The Raipur tea garden, which had over 500 workers, closed down in September last year. Since June 22, six persons, including two newborns, have died of suspected malnutrition.

North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb and food minister Jyotipriya Mullick had on June 29 visited the tea garden and announced a slew of measures, such as issuing ration cards for the workers and their families and food grain of better quality. The ministers had refused to associate the deaths with malnutrition.

Teams from the North Bengal College and Hospital had also visited the garden to assess the health condition of the workers and their families.

Drinking water supply, food for children at the ICDS centres and proper huts were also promised.

On June 30, when the Left tried to raise the issue in the Assembly, the plea was turned down, prompting the Left MLAs to walk out.

Referring to certificates collected from the district chief medical officer’s office, Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee had claimed that cardio-vascular arrest and not “starvation” had caused the deaths at the garden.