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4 May 2018

After apex court order, state govt to talk ways to pay tea dues

SNS| Siliguri | May 4, 2018, The state labour department is set to hold a tripartite meeting with trade unions and planters in Jalpaiguri on Friday to determine the method of payment of dues among tea workers.

The meeting will dwell on how the workers in 28 listed gardens of north Bengal can be paid their legitimate claims/dues, including wages, following an order the Supreme Court passed on 4 April this year.

According to official sources, the apex court has asked the state to make an interim payment of Rs 15 crore among the tea workers within six months of the date of the order.

The estimated pending dues amount to around Rs 30 crore, sources have said. Pashupati Ghosh, the advisor to state labour department minister, Moloy Ghatak, will conduct the meeting in Jalpaiguri on Friday, it is learnt.

He is scheduled to interact with trade union leaders in the first half, and hold a meeting with owners of the 28 gardens in the second. Notably, a group of NGOs had filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2006, demanding payment of the legitimate claims of workers, which have been pending due to several reasons, including closure of tea estates, in many states, including West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The petitioners accused the union ministry of commerce of depriving tea workers. As the Union government failed to respond to the Supreme Court in 2011, the court registered a case in 2012.

Then Supreme Court also summoned the Central government department and later the respective state government’s labour departments. Initially, it was estimated that the claims amount to Rs 135 crore in 28 tea gardens in West Bengal, as per reports filed by the petitioners.

However, following a report of the Tea Board of India, the pending dues were estimated at around Rs 30 crore. Though the planters were held responsible, the Supreme Court has asked the respective state governments to make the payment and then recover the amount from the planters later, a senior labour official said.

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