GUWAHATI, March 26 - With the Assam Tea Employees Provident Fund Organisation (ATEPFO) wielding the big stick, tea gardens in Assam have begun coughing up the outstanding Provident Fund (PF) contributions to the workers.
Over the last one month, since the ATEPFO had begun initiating legal proceedings against them, the defaulting gardens have paid up Rs 30 crore of the total outstanding Rs 50 crore PF dues.
The ATEPFO had already sanctioned lodging of FIRs against 125 defaulting tea gardens. These are chronic defaulters who have accumulated dues for over six months.
�Now we feel cases won�t be required against most of the gardens, as except for a few most have started paying the dues. For example, in Golaghat district, we had lodged 13 police cases, of which 12 have already paid up their dues,� sources in the ATEPFO told The Assam Tribune.
The ATEPFO may, however, initiate legal proceedings against four to five gardens which have been unrelenting, including one against a former MLA and ACMS leader who owns a garden in Tinsukia district.
The organisation has attached five tea gardens so far.
The overall outstanding PF amount is to the tune of around Rs 71 crore. Now, the ATEPFO is looking into those gardens which have outstanding amounts for a period of less than six months.
�We will now begin the process of seizing tea leaves, vehicles and other property of this section of defaulters,� the sources said.
�We won�t allow the gardens to deprive the workers of their dues. To deter the garden from continuing the practice, from now on we will immediately lodge cases against gardens which accumulate the payment for six months,� the sources added.
The BJP-led State Government has taken a stern view against the lapses on the part of the garden managements, particularly those relating to labour welfare and has been prodding the regulators to initiate quick and prompt action.
Labour and Tea Tribes Welfare Minister Pallab Lochan Das had recently informed the Assembly that managements of altogether 227 tea gardens have not cleared the provident fund dues. The figures, however, include even those gardens which have dues pending for periods like 15 days or one month.