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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 April 2024

Jalpaiguri: 49 sacked tea workers cry violation of 'job-for-land' deal to district magistrate

The staff alleged that the management retrenched them although they handed over ancestral land to the garden decades back in the deal

Our Correspondent Jalpaiguri Published 05.03.24, 10:02 AM
The workers of the Jogesh Chandra tea estate, in Jalpaiguri, who lost their jobs on Monday

The workers of the Jogesh Chandra tea estate, in Jalpaiguri, who lost their jobs on Monday Picture by Biplab Basak

Forty-nine workers of a tea estate in Jalpaiguri district reached the district magistrate’s office here on Monday, alleging that the management retrenched them although they handed over ancestral land to the garden decades back in a "job-for-land" deal.

“In 1992, all of us gave around 50 acres of our land, which was next to Jogesh Chandra tea estate, to the garden management so that they could increase their plantation area. The management had provided us jobs as permanent workers instead and had also handed over an agreement to us, mentioning the deal (jobs against land). However, in December last year, all 49 of us were suddenly removed from our jobs,” said Charia Bibi, a woman worker who has been jobless for almost three months now.

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The garden is located in the Kranti block of Jalpaiguri district. It employs around 1,200 workers.

Sources said that since 1992, these workers had been serving in the garden and getting due wages and other benefits. However, in 2010, as the garden closed down due to certain issues, they started plucking tea leaves and selling those to some other gardens. Later, they joined a tea plantation nearby.

“In 2014, as the garden reopened, they continued to work at Jogesh Chandra. However, on December 18 last year, the managerial staff called them and said that they had been relieved of their jobs. We want the management to revoke its decision and have thus sought administrative intervention,” said Sajal Sarkar, a leader of Trinamul Cha Bagan Shramik Union at the garden.

Mukti Soren, a member of the local panchayat, said all these workers are permanent staff with provident fund accounts.

“They can’t be removed from their jobs in such a manner. We also want the state labour department to act on the issue. These workers had provided their land for the interest of the garden and now, they neither have land nor a job,” said Soren.

Manoj Roy, the garden manager, said the land by these workers was not in the tea garden.

“We don’t have that patch of land in our garden. As we didn’t get the land, there is no question of letting these workers continue with their jobs. That is why they have been removed. Moreover, the garden is running with financial constraints and needs to cut down costs,” said Roy.

Priyadarshini Bhattacharya, the district land and land reforms officer, said a meeting would be held in her office on March 12.

“Representatives of the garden’s management and the tea workers will be present at the meeting. We are gathering information from other sources to know the present status of the land which these workers claimed to have handed over to the management,” she said.

The labour department has also initiated a probe. “We are trying to find out the job conditions of these workers. If required, a clarification would be sought from the management before we make appropriate moves,” said Subhagata Gupta, the deputy labour commissioner of Jalpaiguri.

Fatal jumbo attack

A 35-year-old resident of a closed tea estate in Jalpaiguri district died in an elephant attack on Sunday night.

Sources said Madho Oraon, the victim, who was a resident of the Bamandanga-Tondu tea estate in Nagrakata block, was on his way to bring his cattle back when a wild tusker, which had strayed into the area, attacked and trampled upon him.

Local residents rushed him to the rural hospital in Sulkapara where doctors pronounced him dead.

Senior foresters visited the spot of the attack.

They said that Oraon's family would get compensation according to the state government's rules.

Bangla youth

Anil Mahali, 28, from Joypurhat district of Bangladesh, was nabbed by the troops of the 61st battalion of the Border Security Force posted at Aptiar border outpost at the Bangladesh border in South Dinajpur on Sunday evening, for "illegally" trying to enter India. Some Bangladeshi currency was recovered from him. Anil was later handed over to Hili police station.

The BSF also carried out anti-smuggling drives from March 2 to March 4 in different locations and seized contraband items worth Rs 2.55 lakh. These were allegedly supposed to be smuggled to Bangladesh.

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