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28 Dec 2016

Blockade to protest tea wage delay

The blockade on NH31on Tuesday. Picture by Biplab Basak
TT, Jalpaiguri, Dec. 27: Workers of Totapara Tea Estate blocked NH31 at Banarhat Chowpathi for five hours this morning to protest against delay in wage disbursal by the bank concerned.
The 1,600 workers whose wages for a fortnight have fallen due alleged that although the tea garden management had deposited the required amount in a nationalised bank's Banarhat branch, the labourers didn't get the money.
"Even after receiving the amount from the tea garden management, the bank is not releasing the workers' wages. That is why we organised the blockade," garden worker Ranjit Oraon said.
Today, around 600 labourers set up the blockade at Banarhat Chowpathi, 46km from here.
The protest was lifted around 1pm after the administration assured the agitators that they would get their wages soon.
The garden management also alleged non-cooperation by the bank and manager S.S. Malik said some bank officials had misbehaved with him.
"We deposited Rs 13 lakh in the bank so that we could pay the workers' wages. The labourers opened bank accounts with the branch so that they did not have to face any trouble getting wages. But on Friday, the bank authorities did not allow the payment. On Monday, the workers went to the bank again. They waited till 6.30pm but did not get their wages," Malik said.
"When I went to the regional office of the bank at Malbazar, the officials misbehaved with me. I went to the district magistrate and sought her intervention," he said, adding that the bank did not give any reason for the non-payment.
Bank officials refused to comment on the matter.
Jalpaiguri district magistrate Mukta Arya said: "I have spoken to the higher officials of the bank and told them to clear the dues by Wednesday."
The Indian Tea Planters' Association (ITPA) has also sought the administration's intervention. "Banks are delaying payment and we have apprised the district administration of it," Amitangshu Chakraborty, the chief advisor to the ITPA, said.

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