Power supply snapped over bill dues, tea garden workers forced to drink river water

drink river water
Sat, Aug 10, 2019

SILIGURI: More than 200 workers of the closed Panighatta Tea Estate under Mirik block are forced to drink polluted and unsafe river water after the water supply through PHE has been suspended due to disconnection of electricity for non-payment of huge amount of bills. The Electricity department has sealed the cut-out (service head) near the pump house situated at Baley Busty of Panighatta on Wednesday evening over non-payment of bill amounting to Rs 7 lakh.
The water supply to almost 1,000 families was under the responsibility of tea estate management who fled away on 10 October 2015 putting the suspension of work notice without paying the wages including other benefits of workers.
After the closure of the tea estate, GTA authorities, local panchayat and BDO held meeting and amicably decided to continue the water supply for the workers until the tea estate is reopened.
Manju Toppo, a tea worker who was found fetching water from nearby Balason River, around 1 kilometre away from her residence said, “We don’t know why the water supply suddenly stopped. Since two days we are carrying water from River Balason for drinking and other household works.”
An elderly woman Harkamaya who was in river to collect water for drinking said, “When you are thirsty you don’t see if the water is polluted or unsafe. There is no other alternative source to collect pure water neither we poor people can buy filtered water.”
Asked on the situation, Mirik Block Development Officer Amitabha Bhattacharya said, “We are aware about the fact but the concerned department answerable is PHE under GTA. I have also informed the matter to GTA principle secretary as the drinking water is transfer subject of GTA. The station manager of the electricity department has sent the bill of Rs 7 lakh which is due since the closure of the garden. We have tried to pay the bill through relief fund of our department but treasury department did not give the approval.”
Tshering Dahal, a Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (Binoy faction) leader of Terai said, “When the garden was closed there was a problem of paying electricity bills. So two years back we had called BDO and local panchayat secretary and the made an agreement to resolve the matter and water supply was restored. Now I will check the matter why the bill was not paid after taking the responsibility by the local authorities.”

Area: 7096 Sq Km
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min – 13°C
Winter: Max -13°C ; Min – 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
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