The Telegraph
Monday , May 26 , 2014
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Tea union meet to analyse poll debacle

Jorhat, May 25: The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) will hold a meeting of its top leaders and all office-bearers of its branches across the state next month in Dibrugarh to analyse the poll debacle of the Congress in the state, especially in the tea belt.

The ACMS, affiliated to the Congress-backed Intuc, is the largest and oldest union of the tea garden workers in the state with its central office in Dibrugarh.

The union sources said the dismal show by the Congress not only in two citadels in Upper Assam — Jorhat and Dibrugarh — but also in the other seats where tea tribes play a prominent role and traditional Congress bastion, had come as a shock to the party.

In the Jorhat seat, former two-time Union minister Bijoy Krishna Handique was routed by Kamakhya Prasad Tasa (BJP), a former general secretary of the Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA), who in 2009 failed to unseat Handique. The Jorhat seat has been represented by Handique for six times since 1991.

Sources said the meeting was expected to be attended by veteran Congress leader and two-time Union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, who lost his Dibrugarh seat to the BJP’s Rameshwar Teli, Congress ministers, MLAs of the state and the lone Rajya Sabha MP from tea tribes Santius Kujur and well-wishers to take stock of the defeat and revitalise the organisation to assist the Congress in the 2016 Assembly polls.

Ghatowar, who is the chief adviser of the union, was its president for over two decades before assuming charge as the DoNER minister in the UPA II.

Assam Assembly Deputy Speaker Bhimananda Tanti is the president of the union and there are over 10 legislators from the tea tribes in the Assembly.

The tea union has over 15 lakh workers (permanent and casual ) as its members.

Lakheshwar Tanti, a member of ACMS’s executive committee and general secretary of the Moran unit of the union, told this correspondent that the results had come as a “big setback” to the organisation.

Tanti said views on the causes of loss and suggestions to revamp the union from all the office-bearers of the 22 branches of the ACMS and leaders and well-wishers of the union would be heard and a plan had to be prepared to gain lost ground.

He said better co-ordination between the state government and the union was needed and the government’s programmes and policies towards the welfare of tea tribes have to be presented in better ways to the people and such work have to reviewed constantly for better implementation.

Similarly, the union, too, has to be more vocal in bringing to the notice of the government the needs and aspirations of the tea workers and be able to put pressure on the government to get things done, he added.

Tanti said last year 150-bigha land belonging to Rajabari tea estate of the Assam Tea Corporation Limited (state government-owned PSU) in Sivasagar district was handed over to the ONGC to construct a hospital.

He said the oil company had paid Rs 3.19 crore to the ATCL immediately and the government had then assured to utilise the amount for the welfare of the garden and its workers, but till date the amount was lying unutilised.

“Delay of such kind lead to resentment and send a wrong signal to the people,” Tanti said.