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No wages, rations for tea workers, govt-tea estate nexus alleged

By Staff Correspondent
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DIBRUGARH, March 9 - Plantation workers in some tea gardens have not received their wages and deprived of rations for several fortnights, but the government agencies are silent as they have a covert understanding with the planters, student and workers� organisations have alleged.

Organisations such as the Assam Chah Madoor Sangha (ACMS), Assam Tea Tribes Students� Association (ATTSA) and All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) suspect covert understanding between the planters and the Assam Tea Employees Provident Fund Organisation (ATEPFO) and Assistant Labour Commissioner.

The organisations alleged that plantation workers have not received wages for several fortnights, have been deprived of rations for more than eight fortnights, and denied full bonus, provident fund and gratuity for years. They have not received other welfare measures and health services as well.

In a recent incident, the ATEPFO allegedly refrained from attaching the properties of the Madarkhat Tea Company Private Limited, despite the fact that the company has not deposited provident fund of the workers amounting to more than Rs 1.5 crore.

Altogether, there are about 30 tea estates in the district that have failed to deposit provident fund of workers for the past several years, ATTSA leaders told the media here today.

It is estimated that the ATEPFO office here is still to collect about Rs 16 crore from the PF-defaulting tea gardens of the district.

Two tea estates of the Madarkhat Tea Company Private Limited � Madarkhat tea estate near Tengakhat and Parbataipur tea estate in Tingkhong � needs special mention because the company has huge liabilities but is still in the good books of the ATEPFO and Assistant Labour Commissioner.

Nabin Keot, secretary of the Dibrugarh unit of the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, said the company owes workers� wages of two fortnights amounting to Rs 36 lakh approximately.

The staff salary of the last three months amounting to around Rs 32 lakh is also pending. Arrears and other liabilities are estimated around Rs 65 lakh, while rations whose value comes to around Rs 60 lakh for eight fortnights has also not been disbursed, Keot said.

Provident Fund to be deposited with the ATEPFO is about Rs 1.55 crore and about 160 workers who have crossed their retirement age are still toiling because the management is not in a position to pay them gratuity, he said.

The puja bonus has also not been paid, and the tea company has a bank loan of Rs 4.8 crore and is in debt. Under such circumstances, why are the district administration and the government agencies silent, Keot asked.

The ATTSA said that the district administration must act immediately if it does not want the current events to snowball into a law and order situation.

The AASAA, meanwhile, threatened a massive stir if issues in the plantations were not resolved at the earliest. Leaders of the Adivasi students� body who staged a road blockade in Chabua on Tuesday also reiterated their demands for Scheduled Tribe status, hike in wages of tea garden workers to Rs 350 and allotment of land to members of the Adivasi community.

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No wages, rations for tea workers, govt-tea estate nexus alleged

DIBRUGARH, March 9 - Plantation workers in some tea gardens have not received their wages and deprived of rations for several fortnights, but the government agencies are silent as they have a covert understanding with the planters, student and workers� organisations have alleged.

Organisations such as the Assam Chah Madoor Sangha (ACMS), Assam Tea Tribes Students� Association (ATTSA) and All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) suspect covert understanding between the planters and the Assam Tea Employees Provident Fund Organisation (ATEPFO) and Assistant Labour Commissioner.

The organisations alleged that plantation workers have not received wages for several fortnights, have been deprived of rations for more than eight fortnights, and denied full bonus, provident fund and gratuity for years. They have not received other welfare measures and health services as well.

In a recent incident, the ATEPFO allegedly refrained from attaching the properties of the Madarkhat Tea Company Private Limited, despite the fact that the company has not deposited provident fund of the workers amounting to more than Rs 1.5 crore.

Altogether, there are about 30 tea estates in the district that have failed to deposit provident fund of workers for the past several years, ATTSA leaders told the media here today.

It is estimated that the ATEPFO office here is still to collect about Rs 16 crore from the PF-defaulting tea gardens of the district.

Two tea estates of the Madarkhat Tea Company Private Limited � Madarkhat tea estate near Tengakhat and Parbataipur tea estate in Tingkhong � needs special mention because the company has huge liabilities but is still in the good books of the ATEPFO and Assistant Labour Commissioner.

Nabin Keot, secretary of the Dibrugarh unit of the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, said the company owes workers� wages of two fortnights amounting to Rs 36 lakh approximately.

The staff salary of the last three months amounting to around Rs 32 lakh is also pending. Arrears and other liabilities are estimated around Rs 65 lakh, while rations whose value comes to around Rs 60 lakh for eight fortnights has also not been disbursed, Keot said.

Provident Fund to be deposited with the ATEPFO is about Rs 1.55 crore and about 160 workers who have crossed their retirement age are still toiling because the management is not in a position to pay them gratuity, he said.

The puja bonus has also not been paid, and the tea company has a bank loan of Rs 4.8 crore and is in debt. Under such circumstances, why are the district administration and the government agencies silent, Keot asked.

The ATTSA said that the district administration must act immediately if it does not want the current events to snowball into a law and order situation.

The AASAA, meanwhile, threatened a massive stir if issues in the plantations were not resolved at the earliest. Leaders of the Adivasi students� body who staged a road blockade in Chabua on Tuesday also reiterated their demands for Scheduled Tribe status, hike in wages of tea garden workers to Rs 350 and allotment of land to members of the Adivasi community.

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