The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Happy Valley can smile again

Darjeeling, March 28: After a gap of more than two years, Happy Valley tea garden will resume normal operations from tomorrow, following a successful tripartite meeting held at the office of the assistant labour commissioner here today.

Though the garden is originally owned by Happy Valley Tea Company Pvt. Limited, a workers’ committee had been running it since December 2005. However, the owners never served a lock-out notice on the estate.

Today though, the directors of the company, Phalguni Banerjee and Tridev Banerjee, gave Kishorilal Agarawal and Ram Prasad Thakur the power of attorney to run the estate.

“The gardens will restart normal operations from tomorrow. Work at the garden had been affected as the Banerjees had earlier maintained that they were not in the position to run the garden due to financial constraints,” said assistant labour commissioner Reena Kwok. Agarawal and Thakur of Kurseong Carrier Pvt. Ltd, which has its registered office in Calcutta, will function as the director and additional director of the garden respectively.

Over the last two years, the management committee formed by the workers had been selling the green leaves to a garden in the Kurseong subdivision. Last year, the district administration had appointed a receiver for the garden, but the Banerjees had challenged the appointment in the high court.

It is learnt that Happy Valley Tea Company has agreed to clear all dues pertaining to statutory obligations like provident fund, wages and bonus. “The management has also agreed to clear the bonus due to the workers for 2004-2005. The labourers will get normal wages as prescribed in the Industrial Wage Agreement (Rs 51.90) for their work from tomorrow. Outstanding wages will be cleared as soon as possible,” said N.K. Kumai, the president of the GNLF-affiliated Himalayan Plantation Worker’s Union (HPWU). Happy Valley is a single union garden and the leaders of the HPWU attended today’s meeting.

Kumai added that wage dues to the 334 workers of the garden for 15 days in March would also be disbursed on Saturday. Sources said the company will have to pay arrears amounting to Rs 1.93 crore following today’s negotiations.

It is learnt that the management has started the process of officially absorbing about 90 temporary workers as regular labourers.

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