The Telegraph
Thursday , January 19 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Inquiry into Cachar ‘hunger’ deaths

Silchar, Jan. 18: Cachar district magistrate Harendra Kumar Dev Mahanta has ordered a magisterial inquiry into deaths allegedly caused by starvation in a closed tea plantation in the district’s Lakhipur subdivision.

The garden was declared sick in October last year.

Speaking last night over phone from Guwahati, Dev Mahanta said the sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Lakhipur subdivision, Rina Nath, had been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting an inquiry into the deaths in Bhuban Valley tea estate, 18km from this town.

She is expected to issue a notification pertaining to this either today or tomorrow, Dev Mahanta said.

Two more inquiries into the affairs of the Bhuban Valley tea estate, a 900-hectare property owned by Calcutta-headquartered Bhuban Valley tea company, are also in the offing.

The investigation into the present stalemate in the tea garden caused by cessation of work in the plantation will be conducted by Alim Uddin Barbhuyan, an inspector in the district office of the assistant labour commissioner.

Another probe by the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) under the joint director of state health services, Cachar, Vijayluxmy Das, to investigate the anomalies relating to the expenditure of Rs 15 lakh annual grant to the garden, will also be under way soon.

Dev Mahanta made it clear that according to inputs provided to him by garden workers on Monday night, the total number of hunger deaths is nine.

Former Assam minister and MLA of the Congress party from Lakhipur and general secretary of the Barak Valley Cha Sramik Union, D.P. Goala, however, has scaled the toll down to four.

The representative of the closed garden, Phulan Ahmed Barbhuyan, however, had denied reports of any death caused by either starvation or malnutrition as most of the workers of this garden, had taken up jobs to work as domestic help in the nearby areas of the garden.

The alleged deaths in the Bhuban Valley tea estate — which is now scheduled to resume its operations from January 23 as decided in a tripartite meeting of the Cachar district administration, the union and the garden management on Monday — is the second such mass deaths in Barak Valley gardens.In 1991, as many as 11 starvation deaths were reported from Pathini tea estate.

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