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Faster cash aid for 16,000 workers of 16 closed tea gardens in north Bengal

The initiative is being seen as yet another attempt by Trinamul to revive its support base in the tea belt ahead of the Lok Sabha polls

Anirban Choudhury Alipurduar Published 23.02.24, 10:58 AM
The factory of Raimatang tea estate in Alipurduar, closed for a few months.

The factory of Raimatang tea estate in Alipurduar, closed for a few months. File picture

The state labour department will extend monthly cash assistance to over 16,000 workers of 16 closed tea gardens in north Bengal, following the state’s decision to reduce the gap between the garden's shutdown and the start of the aid.

The initiative is being seen as yet another attempt by Trinamul to revive its support base in the tea belt ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

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In the tea industry, a permanent worker of any closed tea garden starts getting a monthly assistance of Rs 1,500 under the FAWLOI (Financial Assistance to Workers of Locked Out Industries), provided the garden is closed for at least six months, from the state government. The assistance stops once the garden reopens.

In December last year, when chief minister Mamata Banerjee was in Alipurduar on an official trip, she was told by party leaders that a worker has to wait for six months after his or her garden’s closure to get the assistance. They requested her to consider reducing the gap.

While speaking at a public service distribution programme at the Parade Ground here, Mamata announced that henceforth workers of any closed tea garden would be entitled to the assistance if the garden is closed for a month.

Accordingly, on January 16, the state labour department issued an order, saying workers would get the assistance under FAWLOI if the garden is closed for a month.

Based on the order, the state labour department found 16 such gardens in north Bengal — six in Darjeeling hills, one in Terai and nine in the Dooars — which closed down last year.

On February 19, the state labour commissioner issued a notification saying permanent workers of all these gardens will receive the assistance from the very next month of the closure of the concerned garden.

“Altogether, 16,282 workers will get the assistance. There are a number of gardens which have closed down within the past six months. With this reduction in the time period, many jobless workers will get relief as they will get the cash assistance immediately,” said Nakul Sonar, the chairman of the Trinamul Cha Bagan Shramik Union (TCBSU).

On February 19, the TCBSU launched the “Chai Shramik Ekta Yatra” in the Dooars belt to reach out to the tea workers. During the ongoing march, trade union leaders of Trinamul will meet workers of over 130 gardens.

“It is evident that Trinamul is putting in every effort to win the support of tea workers in north Bengal. On the one hand, the party's trade union front has launched a rally to reach out to them. On the other hand, the state government is taking a slew of initiatives for tea workers and now it has amended the gap for cash aid under FAWLOI. All these moves would surely bring political dividends for Trinamul and would build pressure on the BJP,” said a veteran political observer based in Malbazar.

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