Govt declares lock out of three closed tea gardens, financial assistance for workers: DTDPLU

Fri, Sep 6, 2019

Our Correspondent
Dooteriah, Kalej Valley and Peshok tea gardens have been officially declared as a lock out by the State government, said a trade union affiliated to GJM (Binay Tamang) camp today.
Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union (DTDPLU) president Karuna Gurung informed that the government has also decided to provide financial help for the workers of these three tea gardens.
“The three tea gardens have been closed for about five years now. Yesterday, a lockout of the gardens was officially announced by the State government which is a sign of relief for the tea garden workers. From May 2018 till October this year, financial help of Rs. 1500 per month will be provided to each worker in these tea gardens by the government,” said Gurung.
The workers need to provide their voter id, aadhar card, PF account number and bank account number to the Labour office.
The DTDPLU president said the union would be making enquiries and start distributing forms to the workers. The retired workers along those who migrated to work outside and taken out their entire PF amount will not be getting the financial help. Only those who are working at present are eligible, she said.
The three tea gardens are closed since 2015, said the union.
Dooteriah tea garden has 1,345 workers, Kalej Valley has 642 workers and Peshok has 570 workers.
We have been constantly raising the issue of these three closed tea gardens with the State government after which this decision was taken.
The DTDPLU is planning to hold a public meeting at Dooteriah on Sunday and also put up posters in the three tea gardens to sensitize them on the decision taken by the government. Similar meeting is proposed to be held at Peshok on Monday.
“We cannot say how long the government will provide the financial help to the workers. If any company wants to buy the tea gardens or run in a cooperative system later on, they can do that. A lock out being declared will prove to be helpful for this,” said Gurung. There was a lot of interested buyers in past but they could not purchase the tea gardens as lock out was not declared then.
It was informed that the union has submitted a memorandum to the State government seeking puja bonus for the workers for the three closed tea gardens.
The DTDPLU also rejected the reasons cited by the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) for allocating only 8.33% puja bonus for the workers of tea gardens in the hills.
The DTA had said due to low production and decline in export, the tea garden managements cannot give more than 8.33% puja bonus even though the trade unions are demanding 20%.
“In 2017, the tea gardens were closed for 105 days and we can understand that the tea garden management faced losses that time. But no garden closed for even a single day in 2018. The tea gardens functioned properly, production was good and weather was also favourable. So where did the production go? If they claim that they faced losses then close all the tea gardens and go,” said Gurung.
“The management should also take responsibility for the drop in production and sale. The absenteeism in tea gardens is due to meagre wages the workers are getting and now the tea garden management are bringing workers from outside on contract system along with machines due to which quality of tea has gone down,” said the DTDPU president.

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