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Silchar: Process to clear tea bushes at Doloo TE for Greenfield airport starts

By Staff Correspondent
Silchar: Process to clear tea bushes at Doloo TE for Greenfield airport starts
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Silchar, May 13: The Government, on Thursday began the process to clear the tea bushes from the areas meant for the construction of the proposed Greenfield airport in Silchar. The decision was taken amidst stiff opposition by the labourers of Doloo Tea Estate, swelling protests and their earnest plea, haplessly begging to halt the process.

Over 100 bulldozers were seen in action uprooting the tea bushes in the presence of a thick security cover and officials from the Cachar district administration.

According to credible sources, over three million plants will be uprooted to construct the Greenfield airport for which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on March 7 this year between the authorities of the Doloo Tea Company and three registered trade unions at the Doloo tea estate representing the workers of the tea garden viz Barak Cha Sramik Union (BCSU), Akhil Bharatiya Cha Mazdoor Sangh (ABCMS) and Barak Valley Cha Mazdoor Sangh (BVCMS).

As per a social media post on the Facebook page of the Cachar District Administration on April 26 this year, the State Government is desirous to develop the new Greenfield airport of international standard at Silchar since the current airport is a defence airport. Based on the feasibility report and a study conducted by a multidisciplinary team from the Airport Authority of India and officials of the State Government of Assam wherein Doloo Tea estate was the most feasible site for a new airport out of all available sites near Silchar. The company relinquished 2,500 bighas of land out of a total of 9,250 bighas of land to the Assam Government in lieu of compensation for tea bushes, shed trees on the said 2,500 bighas of land. The agreement covers pending Provident Fund, Gratuity, and Arrear wages to the workers and the tea company assured the unions that it will not retrench or layoff any workers, the post read.

It may be recalled that Chief Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, during his visit to Silchar in January this year had said, " among the forthcoming major projects, Silchar will get a new airport at the Daloo Tea Estate and it would be approved in the State cabinet in the next 2-3 weeks. The hurdles on the way for development of Barak Valley lie here itself. People of this region must co-operate with the Government for the major projects to finish within estimated timeline. With regard to setting up of the new airport, which is demanded by the people here, we shall see that in obtaining the land, no one loses their livelihood."

Meanwhile, a large contingent of police and CRPF force was deployed at the Lalbagh division of the tea garden, the site of the garden where the airport will be constructed to prevent the protesting labourers from entering the area and began the process of uprooting the bushes. Special DGP (Law and Order) GP Singh and Cachar SP Ramandeep Kaur were seen leading the police troops to prevent any untoward incident. However, there was no problematic incident reported so far from the area in which the uprooting process is underway.

Interacting with the media from the spot on Friday, the SP said, "The process for land acquisition at the Doloo tea garden for the Greenfield airport and demarcation of land has begun. My only appeal to the public since the steps is being taken as per the MoU signed earlier, if anyone has any resistance or arguments or demands, they must approach concerned officials and place their demands instead of unnecessarily agitating and hindering Government work in this manner. So far the uprooting of tea bushes went smoothly and we are trying to convince the protesters not to obstruct Government process. They must speak to the concerned officials to address their demands."

On the other hand, Supriyo Sikdar, Deputy General Manager of the Doloo Tea Estate owned by Eastern Tea Company, while briefing the media at the conference hall of the Cachar Deputy Commissioner, on the scenario and communicating the stance of the garden management informed that following the relinquishment of the land, the land stands as Government Khasland.

"Out of 9,250 bigha land of the tea estate which is 1,458 hectares of land, 2,500 bighas of land (325 hectares) have been earmarked for the proposed Greenfield airport. The garden will have a huge stretch of virgin land summing up to a tea cultivable land area of a stretch of over 500 hectares. The livelihood of the labourers will in no way be lost or even be in danger. We wanted the proper message to be disseminated to the labourers. There have been several meetings held to convey that the interest of the tea labourers will in no way be harmed were held with the recognized labour unions on the issue of the MoU to which all the three unions had agreed. However, the Assam Majuri Sramik Union which is an unrecognized union of the tea estate and has no base is spearheading the protest amassing the labourers," Sikdar told media persons in a meeting convened by the Cachar district administration.

Earlier, Silchar MP Dr Rajdeep Roy, who chaired a meeting on the issue of the airport had said that the civil society of Silchar, political parties and labour unions, including the signatories of the MoU are on the same page regarding the construction of the airport at Doloo and they expressed their views that the Government should decide on the construction of the airport. "I thank everyone for the support extended to the Government and unanimously agreeing to the point of land acquisition. I assured everyone that no jobs will be lost, no plantation will be jeopardized and whatever quantum of bushes will be cleared (stating that the bushes set to be uprooted for the construction are already over 60 years), efforts would be taken to maximize the plantation. A vicious circle by a few men and an unrecognized labour union with pro-Maoist nexus is out to scuttle the major infrastructure for the development of Barak Valley. The government will take the call," the MP had claimed.

Various associations took to the streets in Silchar on Friday to demonstrate their discontent over the move by the Government to clean the tea bushes at Doloo Tea Estate as the first step towards construction of the Greenfield airport in Silchar. During the protest, the speakers condemned the role of former state minister and leader of the tea tribes Ajit Singh in the whole development with respect to signing of the MoU between the Doloo Tea Garden management and the registered trade unions

They also mentioned that they are not opposing construction of a new airport but maintained that the development which is being echoed should never be at the cost of destroying greenery and putting the livelihood of the tea garden labourers at stake. The speakers suggested that there are many spaces available across the valley which could have been selected for the airport instead of invading into a flourishing tea garden

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Silchar: Process to clear tea bushes at Doloo TE for Greenfield airport starts

Silchar, May 13: The Government, on Thursday began the process to clear the tea bushes from the areas meant for the construction of the proposed Greenfield airport in Silchar. The decision was taken amidst stiff opposition by the labourers of Doloo Tea Estate, swelling protests and their earnest plea, haplessly begging to halt the process.

Over 100 bulldozers were seen in action uprooting the tea bushes in the presence of a thick security cover and officials from the Cachar district administration.

According to credible sources, over three million plants will be uprooted to construct the Greenfield airport for which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on March 7 this year between the authorities of the Doloo Tea Company and three registered trade unions at the Doloo tea estate representing the workers of the tea garden viz Barak Cha Sramik Union (BCSU), Akhil Bharatiya Cha Mazdoor Sangh (ABCMS) and Barak Valley Cha Mazdoor Sangh (BVCMS).

As per a social media post on the Facebook page of the Cachar District Administration on April 26 this year, the State Government is desirous to develop the new Greenfield airport of international standard at Silchar since the current airport is a defence airport. Based on the feasibility report and a study conducted by a multidisciplinary team from the Airport Authority of India and officials of the State Government of Assam wherein Doloo Tea estate was the most feasible site for a new airport out of all available sites near Silchar. The company relinquished 2,500 bighas of land out of a total of 9,250 bighas of land to the Assam Government in lieu of compensation for tea bushes, shed trees on the said 2,500 bighas of land. The agreement covers pending Provident Fund, Gratuity, and Arrear wages to the workers and the tea company assured the unions that it will not retrench or layoff any workers, the post read.

It may be recalled that Chief Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, during his visit to Silchar in January this year had said, " among the forthcoming major projects, Silchar will get a new airport at the Daloo Tea Estate and it would be approved in the State cabinet in the next 2-3 weeks. The hurdles on the way for development of Barak Valley lie here itself. People of this region must co-operate with the Government for the major projects to finish within estimated timeline. With regard to setting up of the new airport, which is demanded by the people here, we shall see that in obtaining the land, no one loses their livelihood."

Meanwhile, a large contingent of police and CRPF force was deployed at the Lalbagh division of the tea garden, the site of the garden where the airport will be constructed to prevent the protesting labourers from entering the area and began the process of uprooting the bushes. Special DGP (Law and Order) GP Singh and Cachar SP Ramandeep Kaur were seen leading the police troops to prevent any untoward incident. However, there was no problematic incident reported so far from the area in which the uprooting process is underway.

Interacting with the media from the spot on Friday, the SP said, "The process for land acquisition at the Doloo tea garden for the Greenfield airport and demarcation of land has begun. My only appeal to the public since the steps is being taken as per the MoU signed earlier, if anyone has any resistance or arguments or demands, they must approach concerned officials and place their demands instead of unnecessarily agitating and hindering Government work in this manner. So far the uprooting of tea bushes went smoothly and we are trying to convince the protesters not to obstruct Government process. They must speak to the concerned officials to address their demands."

On the other hand, Supriyo Sikdar, Deputy General Manager of the Doloo Tea Estate owned by Eastern Tea Company, while briefing the media at the conference hall of the Cachar Deputy Commissioner, on the scenario and communicating the stance of the garden management informed that following the relinquishment of the land, the land stands as Government Khasland.

"Out of 9,250 bigha land of the tea estate which is 1,458 hectares of land, 2,500 bighas of land (325 hectares) have been earmarked for the proposed Greenfield airport. The garden will have a huge stretch of virgin land summing up to a tea cultivable land area of a stretch of over 500 hectares. The livelihood of the labourers will in no way be lost or even be in danger. We wanted the proper message to be disseminated to the labourers. There have been several meetings held to convey that the interest of the tea labourers will in no way be harmed were held with the recognized labour unions on the issue of the MoU to which all the three unions had agreed. However, the Assam Majuri Sramik Union which is an unrecognized union of the tea estate and has no base is spearheading the protest amassing the labourers," Sikdar told media persons in a meeting convened by the Cachar district administration.

Earlier, Silchar MP Dr Rajdeep Roy, who chaired a meeting on the issue of the airport had said that the civil society of Silchar, political parties and labour unions, including the signatories of the MoU are on the same page regarding the construction of the airport at Doloo and they expressed their views that the Government should decide on the construction of the airport. "I thank everyone for the support extended to the Government and unanimously agreeing to the point of land acquisition. I assured everyone that no jobs will be lost, no plantation will be jeopardized and whatever quantum of bushes will be cleared (stating that the bushes set to be uprooted for the construction are already over 60 years), efforts would be taken to maximize the plantation. A vicious circle by a few men and an unrecognized labour union with pro-Maoist nexus is out to scuttle the major infrastructure for the development of Barak Valley. The government will take the call," the MP had claimed.

Various associations took to the streets in Silchar on Friday to demonstrate their discontent over the move by the Government to clean the tea bushes at Doloo Tea Estate as the first step towards construction of the Greenfield airport in Silchar. During the protest, the speakers condemned the role of former state minister and leader of the tea tribes Ajit Singh in the whole development with respect to signing of the MoU between the Doloo Tea Garden management and the registered trade unions

They also mentioned that they are not opposing construction of a new airport but maintained that the development which is being echoed should never be at the cost of destroying greenery and putting the livelihood of the tea garden labourers at stake. The speakers suggested that there are many spaces available across the valley which could have been selected for the airport instead of invading into a flourishing tea garden