In April 2015, the management of Hantapara tea estate and seven other gardens owned by Duncans Goenka group had left without any intimation to the workers. If the management of a garden decides to leave, it issues a notice of suspension of work or lockout.
At a meeting in November 2016, representatives of Duncans group agreed to reopen all the eight gardens in the district by March 31 2017, but only two estates have been reopened so far. Birpara had reopened in November last year but wages of three fortnights have been lying due. In Dhumchipara, another reopened garden payment of one fortnight is due.
Deb Sen, the general Manager of Duncan group, said: "We would pay Rs 1,000 to each worker of Hantapara as an advance by Friday. The workers who have left the garden will receive the advance only if they join work within six days. We are trying to reopen other gardens soon. Because of demonetisation, wage payment in the two gardens was delayed. Out of 1,764 workers in Hantapara, 900 joined work.
Fagni Oraon, a worker, said: "We are worried whether the company will pay our wages on time."
Gopal Prodhan, the president of Dooars Cha Bagan Workers' Union, said: "A garden should be run without dues."