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23 May 2018

State yet to stir on tea arrears: Union

TT, May 23, 2018, Alipurduar: Representatives of the Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti (PBKMS), a union working for the rights of tea workers, have visited many estates in the Dooars in past couple of days and found that none had started the process of clearing wage dues.

The managements have not prepared the list of old dues of the workers despite the state labour department's instructions to 20 tea estates to do so by May 18.

Also, forms seeking information about workers and their dues are yet to be sent to nine closed gardens by the department. The visits by the Samiti delegation, led by activist Anuradha Talwar, are aimed at running a reality check on whether the state has initiated the process to pay a portion of the old dues in line with a directive of the Supreme Court.

The apex court, while hearing a petition filed by International Union for Food Workers (IUF) and the PBKMS, had asked governments of some of the tea-producing states of the country, including Bengal, to clear a portion of the dues.

The states had been held partly responsible for the problem and allowing the managements to keep the dues unpaid.

In Bengal, a sum of Rs 15 crore is to be paid to workers of 29 tea gardens by the state.

The state labour department took the initiative and issued forms, which the workers should fill up and submit to them through the management. Also, the management needs to verify the claim made by each worker, with regard to his dues.

"We formed six teams and have already covered 24 tea gardens. Unfortunately, none of these gardens has submitted reports of their old dues to the labour department although the last date was May 18," Talwar said.

She also mentioned that dues of retired and dead workers should be cleared first. "The workers do not have any information as how much money they would receive from the management. A constant monitoring of the process is necessary to ensure that each worker gets his dues. On June 10, we will hold a meeting in Birpara to apprise them and also, a committee of our organisation would formed in the Dooars to see whether the Supreme Court's directive is being adhered by the state," added Talwar.

The labour department officials said the process has started.

"We have sent notice to the gardens and will organized meets in gardens to confirm that all the workers get their dues. Our officers are in touch with the management representatives and the worker," said, Kallol Dutta, deputy labour commissioner, Alipurduar.

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