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Gutted but back to work

Darjeeling, Aug. 20: Work resumed at the Ambootia Tea Estate, whose factory was gutted yesterday, though leaves from the garden were sent to the group’s other plantations for processing.

“Work has started in the garden and almost all labourers turned up today. We want to send out a message to all that we will try to ensure that workers do not have to bear the brunt of the tragedy,” said Anil Bansal, director (plantation) of Ambootia Tea Group, which has 11 gardens in the hills.

The Ambootia Tea Estate, 20km from Kurseong town, employs 913 workers and is spread over 350 hectares.

The garden factory, built in 1920 and renovated in 2002, was destroyed in a blaze that started at 9pm on Monday.

Bansal said leaves plucked from the garden would be transported to factories of the company’s three other estates in the hills from today.

“Green tea leaves of Monteviot (another estate of the group) also used to be brought to the Ambootia garden factory. Before the blaze, about 6,000-7,000kg of leaves from both the gardens were brought daily to the Ambootia factory on an average at this time of the year,” Bansal said.

Monteviot’s factory was destroyed in a fire on November 5, 2004. Ambootia and Monteviot are around 20km apart.

Bansal said the leaves from Ambootia and Monteviot would be sent to factories in Mundakothi, Nagri and Happy Valley gardens for processing.

Happy Valley, Mundakothi and Nagri are in Darjeeling subdivision.