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12 Dec 2016

Left alone, garden works

TT, Jalpaiguri, Dec. 11: Workers of a tea garden in Jalpaiguri have started maintenance work on their own in the absence of the garden management that left the estate in September.
The workers of Naya Saylee Tea Estate, on the outskirts of Malabazar town and around 50km from Siliguri, plan to sell the leaves that grow in the first flush on their own if the management does not return to the garden and pay their Puja bonus dues.
The workers are aware that they may not be paid for the service by the garden owner.
The garden management left on September 24.
The workers, thriving on the state's food grain relief for past two-and-a-half months, started pruning tea bushes, keeping these free of weeds and undergrowth, from yesterday. They want to sell the leaves in the new season in March 2017.
Bharat Sharma, the manager of Naya Saylee Tea Estate, has denied the allegations of the workers.
"We had tried to resume work in the garden but because of non-cooperation by a section of workers, we could not do it. Whatever the workers are doing in the garden is incorrect," Sharma said.
In September, it was agreed during the industry-wide bipartite talks in Calcutta that the garden management would pay the bonus at the rate of 16 per cent.
"A section of workers refused to accept the bonus as the industry rate for bonus was fixed at 19 per cent. This prompted the management to leave the garden," a source in the district administration said.
The subdivisional administration of Malbazar intervened and a tripartite meeting was called among the state officials, the garden management and the workers.
At the meeting, the management proposed it would pay bonus at the rate of 10 per cent of the monthly wage to which the workers agreed.
The garden, however, did not open. Another round of talks was held and the management this time offered bonus at 8.33 per cent.
"The workers assented even to this proposal but the management said it would pay this bonus in March next year. It also said that next Puja, too, they would pay bonus at the same rate (8.33 per cent). This made the workers angry and they refused to assent to the bonus. The management did not return to the garden after that," the source said.
There are 1,800-odd workers in Naya Saylee.
The workers approached the district administration to get assistance from the state under the Financial Assistance to Workers of Locked Out Industries scheme, but for the benefit to kick in, an industrial unit has to be shut for three months, which the garden will complete on December 24.
"We understand that there is nobody to pay us for this work. But at least, from February-end or the beginning of the March next year, we would be able to get a good yield. We will sell those tealeaves," Dinesh Baroa, a worker said.

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