The management of Kanchan View tea garden here moved a step closer to realising its tourism project on the plantation when an agreement was signed by the representatives of the estate’s lessee, workers and other local people on Friday.
There were several disputes between Ajit Agarwala, who runs the tea estate, and local people over the use of 24 acres for the “Rs 500 crore” tourism project. Some of the disputes related to the alleged encroachment of garden land and constructions by a section of the local people.
The management had filed around 35 cases against the residents. Agarwala had also filed a Rs 100 crore defamation suit against Hamro Party president Ajoy Edwards after he and his wife Namrata had sat on a 100-hour hunger strike in the garden last year to raise workers-related issues.
Edwards and his political rival Anit Thapa, who is the chief executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), were present when the agreement was inked on Friday.
In the 23-point agreement, the management has agreed to withdraw all the cases and not to retrench any worker citing the tourism project.
A resort and several ancillary projects are supposed to come up on the 24-acre plot in the garden. The management claims that the project was cleared in 2005, much before the Bengal government formulated the tourism policy in 2019.
There are 99 workers in the 401-acre Kanchan View garden, which is situated 3km from here.
In the agreement, the management also agreed to give priority to direct dependents of workers for jobs in the tourism project and even provide training to them free of cost if the need arises.
“The management decided to provide NOC to residents after a survey to carry on with their activities in the garden or to apply to the government to get a land lease in their favour according to the law,” said Edwards.
Eateries that have come up along a road in the garden will not be removed either. A clause in the pact says compensation will be disbursed in case of damage during the construction of the tourism property.
“We believe this agreement is in favour of the workers and the other residents of the garden. The agreement can serve as a template for other tourism-related projects in tea gardens in the region,” said Edwards.
GTA chief Thapa said the agreement showed that all issues could be resolved through dialogues.
Agarwala said the work on the project would commence immediately. “This is a Rs 500 crore project and apart from a resort, we also have plans to set up a hospital in the area,” he said.