GUWAHATI, May 19 � More than 100 tea gardens of Assam, including some major ones, could face prosecution for gross violation of provisions of the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 this year.
Surprisingly though, such prosecutions opted by the government in previous years had apparently failed to act as a deterrent for the tea garden owners in question as several repetitive violations have also been registered.
To the utter dismay of the victim population in question, although nearly 200 cases were registered in the last five years against tea gardens of Assam, none of the violators had to face imprisonment till date.
Worse, even in cases where convictions were pronounced, the amount of fine imposed on them also hardly acted as a �deterrent�. This, for many, has now made amendment in the Act a must with an increase in the quantum of punishment awarded.
This year, the State government has so far lodged prosecution against nearly 40 of them, of which five are registered under Section 37 of the Act (imprisonment to the extent of six months and fine up to Rs 1,000 or both) which denotes violation that are repetitive in nature, sources at Dispur told The Assam Tribune.
Most of the cases are registered under Section 36 of the Act, violation of which could amount to imprisonment to the extent of three months or a fine up to Rs 500 only or both.
�We have started legal proceedings against nearly 40 tea gardens including some major companies operating in Assam. The violations are mostly related to Sections 36 and 37 of the Act,� sources confirmed.
Sources further divulged that labour inspectors across the State have been pressed into action to gather evidences related to such violations to strengthen its case in the court of law.
�As per our assessment, more than 100 tea gardens will have to face the heat this time. We have served showcause notices on them through deputy commissioners. We have also engaged our labour inspectors for assessment purpose. In most of the cases, the reply was not found satisfactory. We are awaiting replies from some of them,� a senior Assam government official confirmed while talking to this reporter.
He informed that the violations that have so far come to the fore are mostly those related to poor housing, sanitation and medical facilities in the tea gardens.
This is not the first time that the government has carried out inspection in tea estates. In 2009, over 700 tea estates were surveyed and penalties imposed in over 35 cases. Similarly, in 2010 too, penalties were imposed on 24 tea estates.
From 2011 to 2013, more than 100 tea gardens were found violating the norms.