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Tea workers under Alchemist Group threaten to start agitation in Darjeeling & Doors

Darjeeling : The GJM-affiliated Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union (DTDPLU) has threatened to start an intensified agitation in the three tea gardens under the Alchemist Group after the management failed to turn up for a meeting for the fifth time to sort out worker related problems. The assistant labour commissioner had called a tripartite meeting today to solve issues like pending wages, provident fund, gratuity and other fringe benefits. However, the management of the Dhootriah, Kalej Valley and Peshok gardens under the Alchemist Group failed to attend the meeting angering the trade union. According to DTDPLU central committee member Sunil Thapa, who works in the Kalej Valley tea garden, this was the fifth time the owners and management failed to turn up for a meeting. “Four rounds of meetings have been called by the ALC since November last year to sort out worker related issues. But the management has not attended a single meeting, which shows their apathy towards our issues. We are fed up and now will resort to an agitation to get the owners to solve our problems,” he warned. 

The combined dues of workers of the three gardens sum up to Rs 5.44 crore which includes PF, gratuity, medical, wages and salary and various other fringe benefits. “Ration has not been distributed since the past eight months. The workers and other staff members have also not received two months’ wages and salary, leave alone their PF and gratuity. The workers are frustrated as it is really getting difficult for them to sustain their families and many are in the brink of starvation,” Thapa said. Another worry for the workers of the three gardens is getting their children admission into schools. “School admission starts from January 26 onwards. But with no money, how can we get our children admitted?,” said the DTDPLU central committee member. However, although the management failed to turn up for today’s meeting, they have provided one week’s wages and these are being distributed. “They (management) deposited Rs13 lakh today as workers’ wages. But two months’ wages and salary work out to nearly Rs1 crore. Salary of the staff for one month alone is Rs37 lakh. 

What the management has given is barely anything,” Thapa said. The Dhootriah, Kalej Valley and Peshok tea gardens have a workforce of 1,370, 642 and 570 workers, respectively. Demanding the state government’s intervention, the DTDPLU said summons should be issued to the management and owners of the three gardens. “If the management and owners do not attend five rounds of meetings called by the ALC, summons and even arrest warrants should be issued against them. In fact, we will file FIRs against the managing director and chief executive of the gardens in a couple of days,” Thapa said. When contacted by this correspondent, the managing director, PawanVerma, said he could not comment as he was in an important meeting, while Sujit Bhattacharya, the CEO, could not be contacted. Meanwhile, ALC Chewang Sherpa said, “The next meeting will be held after February 23 as the management has requested us to give them time to settle their financial matters.” 


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