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Alipurduar: Tea workers cite home woes, seek key to PMAY

Quarters where we stay are in pathetic shape. We spend nights under tarpaulin sheets as roof collapsed years back, says Mahipal Dorji

Our Correspondent Alipurduar Published 20.12.22, 03:42 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File picture

Workers of two tea estates in Alipurduar district have alleged that their names are not on the list of beneficiaries of the Centre’s housing scheme although they have been living in dilapidated hutments in the gardens.

Such worker allegations have made the BJP question the implementation of “Cha Sundari”, a housing scheme announced by the Mamata Banerjee government exclusively for tea workers, and also on the PMAY lists that the administration is busy readying currently.


A few days back, workers of Kalchini and Bhatpara, two prominent tea estates of Alipurduar district with around 2,600 workers and a population of 10,000–odd in all, flagged the issue before the block development officer of Kalchini.

They also informed Bishal Lama, the local BJP MLA, mentioning that they are genuine beneficiaries and should be provided with homes under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).

“The workers’ quarters where we stay are in pathetic shape. We spend nights under tarpaulin sheets as the roof collapsed years back. It is disappointing that the names of people like us are not there in the list of prospective PMAY beneficiaries. We have informed the BDO about this,” said Mahipal Dorji, a worker of Bhatpara.

According to him, out of the 750-odd quarters in Bhatpara, around 250 are decrepit.

Back in 1998, the tea gardens came under the purview of the panchayat system.

Gradually, housing schemes like Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) were introduced in the tea gardens.

“However, as the gardens are on leasehold land, workers staying on the land need to obtain a no-objection certificate from the tea company concerned which owns the garden to be eligible for a government-sponsored home,” said a source.

In Kalchini tea estate, around 350 quarters out of 900 are in bad shape.

Jimi Oraon, a worker of Kalchini, who stays with three other members of his family in rickety quarters, said that as the housing schemes were introduced, most tea companies stopped building new worker quarters or repairing old ones.

“This saves their social costs. Thus, they readily provide the NOC and simply cross-check if the beneficiary of the housing scheme is an employee of their garden. The real onus is with those who enumerate names (the government officials) to include us as beneficiaries. If we are not included, there would be little option for us other than protests,” he said.

Such allegations have made the BJP pick up the issue and reiterate that the administration should confirm that no genuine beneficiary is left out of the list.

“It also proves that tea workers are dependent on the PMAY, a central scheme, and not the housing scheme elaborately announced by the state government. The chief minister had promised that each tea worker who does not have a house will get one. Trinamul leaders should reply to these workers on what their government has done so far,” said MLA Lama.

Birendra Bara, the Kalchini block Trinamul president, said construction of houses under the Cha Sundari scheme had started in a number of gardens.

“We do not make empty promises like the BJP leaders. The tea workers are aware that certain houses under the scheme are almost ready and will be handed over soon. It is an ongoing scheme and it will obviously take time to provide a home to each worker. There is nothing wrong if workers seek a house under the PMAY,” said Bara.

Contacted, Kalchini BDO Prasanta Barman said a survey was on to check the status of the PMAY beneficiaries.

“We are simply verifying the eligibility of all named earlier as beneficiaries on the list. However, there is no instruction to prepare lists of new beneficiaries,” said the BDO.

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