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Since 1st March, 1999
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Industry captains condemn killing

Jorhat, Dec. 27: The Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA) has urged the government to bring the culprits behind the killing of Konapathar tea estate owner Mridul Kumar Bhattacharjee and his wife Reeta to book.

The ATPA, in a statement issued by its chairman Rajib Barooah this evening, condemned the couple’s killing in the arson at the director’s bungalow last evening as “an inhuman, barbaric and uncivilised act committed by a group of workers in collusion with some outsiders”.

Saying that the incident sent a very dangerous message to the tea industry, the association sought deterrent punishment to all those found guilty of committing the inhuman crime for long-term peace, discipline and prosperity of the tea industry, the state and its people. Describing the incident as “gruesome and premeditated concerted action” of the workers, Dhiraj Kakati, secretary of the Assam branch of Indian Tea Association, said it was unbelievable that in this age humans could behave in this manner, whatever might have been the provocation.

“When such incidents happen in today’s age, we should seek answers to failings. Obviously there seems to be lack of awareness of the grievance procedures available. The unions must take proactive role in addressing this matter and educating their members in following laid-down grievance procedures. The administration also must send a very strong message to the perpetrators of the crime,” Kakati said.

Joydeep Phukan, a tea industry official, said Mridul Kumar Bhattacharjee, who was his cousin, might have been an aggressive businessman as was evident from his activities like asking his workers to plant saplings in the middle of the night so that no time was wasted, but this was no way to treat him. He said the government should take strict action to send out a loud and clear message.

Bidyananda Barkakoty, the chairman of North Eastern Tea Association, said, “It is horrific and pathetic. The timely arrival of police force and fire brigade probably could have saved the precious lives. Co-ordinated efforts by employers, employees and the government need to be taken so that such gruesome incidents never happen again. We appeal to the government to deploy a police force similar to the Rapid Action Force at strategic locations in the tea garden belts so that armed force, specially trained to control mob violence, can reach the spot within 30 minutes or less.”