The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Work scheme for estates

Siliguri, June 16: The Jalpaiguri district administration has decided to extend the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to closed, abandoned and sick tea estates in the Dooars from next month.

The district officials said they will introduce the scheme in specific areas in the Dooars, ensuring a minimum of 100 days' unskilled work per year to labourers rendered jobless. The decision was taken today at a meeting with representatives of planters and trade union leaders at the Jalpaiguri zilla parishad office.

'We plan to start the national scheme in some estates in the Dooars, which are closed or abandoned,' said A. Subbiah, the Jalpaiguri district magistrate. 'People in these estates can earn a little by working under the scheme.'

About 13 tea gardens in the region have either been closed or abandoned, leaving over 25,000 workers jobless.

'We appreciate the administrative move to launch the scheme in the gardens,' said N.K. Basu, the principal adviser to the Indian Tea Planters' Association.

Under the central scheme launched across the country in February this year, job cards with details of the beneficiaries will be issued. 'The cards will be used to calculate the number of days a person will work,' an official said. A minimum of Rs 65 per day will be paid to the beneficiaries.

It was also declared that steps will be taken to check the rivers coming down the Bhutan hills from eating into the plantations. 'Every year, several estates lose hundreds of acres of land in the flood,' Basu said. Banamali Roy, the sabhadipati of Jalpaiguri Zilla Parishad, said Rs 1.02 crore will be spent in the next three months for anti-erosion work.

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