Chamurchi Tea Garden reopened

  • Alipurduar, Oct. 1: Chamurchi Tea Estate reopened today with the new management vowing to turn around the garden in five years.Chamurchi Agro India Private Limited, which took over the garden that had been closed for seven years, arranged for a low-key programme to mark the opening. A puja was performed in a Shiv temple in the garden and sweets were distributed among workers.

    On the first day, about 700 labourers plucked tea leaves till 1pm. The tea leaves were then weighed and loaded on trucks which took the produce to factories in other gardens.

    After declaring the estate “opened”, R.P. Tiwari, the new executive director of Chamurchi Agro India Private Limited, said: “I know how to revive a sick industry as I had turned around three jute mills earlier. In the first five years, the company will invest money in the garden. We will focus on nourishing the bushes to improve the quality of the produce. We hope that the garden will make profit from the sixth year.”

    The estate is located at Banarhat, around 90km from here, in Jalpaiguri district.

    “If we can run the estate smoothly for at least one year, then the workers will have faith in us. There will be celebrations to mark the first anniversary of the re-opening,” said Tiwari.

    The official said all repairs in the garden factory would be finished by March 2010. “The garden is expected to get power connection soon and efforts are being made to solve water crisis the labourers are facing,” he added.

    Tiwari said the dues of the workers till March 31, 2001 would be paid in three installments. “The first instalment was paid on September 15 after the decision to reopen the estate was taken at a meeting on September 8. The rest of the dues will be cleared before August next year. Besides, each labourer will get Rs 1,000 every month for one year under FAWLOI (financial assistance to workers of locked out industries).”

    The garden, which is spread over 482 hectares, has tea plants only in 15 per cent of the area. The management has earmarked 200 more hectares for cultivation.

    Ratan Ram Ravi Das, the secretary of the operating and maintenance committee of the garden, offered co-operation on the part of the workers. “We are very happy today and we will extend all kinds of co-operation to the new management. Only time will tell whether the new company will be able to run the estate successfully. At least one year is needed to make any comment on the new management. ”

    Nur Maya Chhetry, a worker, was guarded in her reaction. “We have faced a lot of problems in the garden. Many people have died because of mal-nutrition and lack of health care facilities. While many children had to discontinue their education, a good number of boys and girls have gone to other states in search of jobs. We do not want a repetition of those bad days.”
    with courtesy: ”The Telegraph”, Kolkata

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    Despair and hope

    Though I do not consider myself as die heart superstitious, or stereotyped Adivasi, notwithstanding of that, sometimes, I believe in mystical and unusual things.

    I have seen a lot of happy people in ‘Dooars, the land of promise’. Many were sending their children to good schools; many were enjoying life with their sufficient income from tea gardens, as well as, income from ‘busty’ the agriculture Adivasi-villages in Dooars. With the good education and sufficient income, many families have migrated to more prosperous and amenities rich places like Kolkata, Delhi, Ranchi, Siliguri, Jalpaiguri etc. However, for last ten-fifteen-years, there were not happy periods for Dooars, especially for Jharkhandis in the tea gardens. I guess, some black magicwale have done some kind of voodoo against the tea gardens of Dooars. Of course, there might be many-many more reasons than any such voodoo, but, all the measures applied for revival of tea gardens have failed miserably and my believes and faiths have waned away, a lot.

    I was sad when tea gardens started to be closed down for any visible or invisible reason. When Raipur, Shikarpur-Bhandarpur, Kathalguri, Chamurchi, Red Bank, Surendra Nagar, Samsing, Bamandanga, Tandu, Ramjhora, Dheklapara, Chinchula, Raimatang, Kalchini and Bhamobari closed owing to various reasons my feeling of dejections had no boundary. My heart again sank, when the land lease order for Kathalguri, Ramjhora and Chamurchi were cancelled and there were not new managements at the horizon. Why so many bad things have been happened in Dooars and these bad omens are continuously hounding tea gardens of Dooars.

    Advents of our forefathers to this land, made it fertile not only for tea cultivation, but, also for our rich traditions, customs and pure Adivasi ethos. Our forefathers loved this land, they toiled continuously under the scorching sun, braving heavy rain and spin shivering cold for erecting tea gardens, develop this place to make it world famous suitable land for tea. They hoped that their children will prosper in this place. For many years, their hopes were fulfilled by the God. Jharkhandis tribal people tried to stand on their own. Nonetheless, new generations have been facing acute problems in the name of closure of tea gardens. These problems have transformed the whole tribal society from a happy society to a society living in uncertain apprehension.

    Once upon a time, there were paddy fields, vegetable yards, cows, goats in each and every house. However, the time has changed and the Adivasi family discarded their cows and goats and also sold out the paddy fields to other people and societies. Nowadays, they depend upon either on their tea gardens income or other odd income. Of course, negligible population have engaged in the service sector. However, situation is not comfortable. Tea gardens are either closing down or are on the verge of closing down. The tea cultivation have snag with so many problems. The tea market is not certain. Other drinking segment is replacing it in market. The soil and the shrubs have been decaying. The monsoon rain patterns are changing rapidly. There is no sure of monsoon on time. The machine in tea factories demands replacement with new machine and parts. The new managements of tea industries are concerned only for profitability. They rapidly changes companies. They acquire company fast and sell it even more quickly after fleecing gardens’ blood. They do not care anything about the development of gardens. All these trends have ruined the tea industries of Dooars. The Adivasis of tea gardens are the only group who has to face the music.

    There is no alternative of tea gardens for Adivasis of Dooars. They cannot abandon tea garden. They born in tea garden and die in it. Unfortunately, tea industries is ailing and going to die within few decades. Of course, the govt. is expressing concern and doing something to save it but their concern is limited to tea industries. Their concern is not extended to Adivasis of Dooars.

    Though, Adivasis of Dooars have awakened, of late, they have to prepare to their struggle for daily life. They have to inculcate social requirement and have to mould their habit of drinking. There is no alternative for learning new craft and enhancing their skill in various professions. The closed tea gardens have given a strong signal for changing of situations.

    Though, I am so sad for present situation, however, I believe in human nature of struggles and have faith in unmatched Adivasi capability to change and hope a better for society

    Happy Valley of Chamurchi

    ‘Oh! Look at that man’s face who is smiling continuously for last ten minutes.’ My friend, who was with me, since last night, whispered in my ear. I looked up the man and realised, how he was happy. A lean and thin man, who perhaps had not eaten anything enough for months, was seemed at the top of a happy mountain valley. Almost all the faces, I come across were lighten up with happiness on hearing that their bagan (tea garden) was going to reopen again.

    Chamurchi Tea Garden, situated at the southern shadow of the beautiful Samchi Bazar of Bhutnese town at the lower Himalaya, was closed down since 2003. For last six years, the workers of tea garden were left in lurch. They were struggling to get two times meals by doing odd work over here and there. The workers and govt. tried to reopen the tea garden, but, all attempts were culminated in unsuccessful trial. The daily wage earners were battling life like anything. The poverty and financial helplessness had already broken the normal life. The school going children compelled to leave schools, many people died of starvation death. The life was like living in the hell. Many left garden for big town and metros for odd employment. There were no ration, no water supply and no electricity. There were no hopes to revive the life afresh. Disintegrations in families and society were visible everywhere. The facts were brought to the fore and also to the administration’s notice, especially, about the starvation deaths. There were news of trafficking of abandoned widows and children, there were news of increasing suicides and smuggling of contraband and burglar. There were cries for basic amenities, minimum healthcare protection measures and safe drinking water.  One can easily imagine, what could be the life of a worker family of a closed tea garden, when there is no alternative source of income for leading a normal social life.

    Chamurchi Tea Garden is very near to international border of Bhutan and the Bhutanese town of Samchi is thriving with newest industrial activities. There are friendly relations with India and Bhutan and Indian residents require no visa to visit Chamurchi. This was a blessing to the workers of Chamurchi Tea Garden. Many got odd works over there and were able to earn few bucks. However, the lives were not like as it were at earlier. Dreams had already been shattered for children education, youth marriage, and a secure retired old age life.

    There are dozen of tea gardens in Dooars, which have been closed for quite a longer period and workers are languishing in it for the want of income and normal life. In between few reopened with the help of govt. and workers unions, however, the situations again gone out of the hand when few those tea gardens again declared closed down. The dreams and hopes will always be there for a happy life. But ………

    On hearing the news of reopening of tea garden, streams of joy were flowing in the streets of Chamurchi once again. The cool wind is blowing with newer fragrance at every mind and heart. I was witnessing a revolution in the every kitchen of Chamurchi.  New buds were blooming in the every corner of life in Chamurchi.

    Our language and conference

    Neh Arjun Indwar

    On one hand we are developing ourselves by receiving modern education, getting good services and accessing reasonably better amenities in our life. On the other way, at the same time, we are also losing our social heritage and legacy like our song, dance, land, language etc. We are not able to support our brethren continuously at village levels as we are so busy in our personal life.

    However, there are few people, who are investing their priceless time, energy and hard earned money to preserve our social and ancestral heritage. They have been striving to organise social gathering at certain regularities and bringing awareness in our sleepy society for our collective responsibility. I really appreciate Shri Ashok Kumar Baxla, Dr. Cecil Xaxa and all their associates of New Delhi in this Herculean missionary voyage.

    Last year I went to Siliguri in the month of October to participate in the All India Kurukh Conference at Pradhan Nagar, Siliguri. I was very glad to see and witness the enthusiasm and passion among our new generation youth about Kurukh language. Many Kurukh scholars were present in the conference and presented their brainpower for the preservation and development of Kurukh.

    This year i,e, 2009, the same conference is scheduled on 10th and 11th October in Raipur, the capital city of Chhattisgarh state. Many people from different parts of India are planning to participate in the conference. It is really a heartening happening that our energetic youth are very much prepared to wage a full-fledged war against the down trend syndrome in our society about our own mother tongue. Anyway we have to be prepared for preserving our fast dwindling language which is perhaps the most ancient language of India.

    Keeping good hopes for future, without a doubt, is only one aspect. However, real challenge lies in the use of language in our day to day life,  and handing over the same heritage to our younger ones in town and city where we interact in the languages other than our own mother tongue. Neh Arjun Indwar

    Lame education systems of Dooars

    The tribal of Dooars are at receiving end in the faulty education systems of W.B. They are not permitted to receive degree level education in Hindi medium, which is their medium of schooling.

    Despite of every effort by the govt. and the society eight million or eight crore children have not seen school classes.

    This is really a pathetic and bizarre fact for India. There is a provision and target to send all the children to school who are in the age group of 6-14 year. There were efforts, of course, to enroll maximum children in school. However, those efforts were purely ‘sarkari’ or govt. initiatives. The situations and the fact of education in India, have been revealed by a survey.

    Around 1.4 crore children are being deprived from the facilities of education in Jharkhand alone. Out of this how many could be the tribal children can easily be imagined. Govt. policy for children has badly failed. A primary school in every three kilometer has not bored fruits. Similarly, 7 thousand villages in West Bengal are not having primary schools.

    Recently (September 2009) the Dooars branch of Akhil Bhartiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP) had called ‘bandh’ in all the schools in Dooars. Its chief demands were to post Hindi medium teachers in Hindi schools of Dooars and relocate the Bengali medium teachers from Hindi medium schools.

    It is pertinent to note here that Jharkhandis of Dooars prefer to send their children in Hindi school for education. However, the education department of West Bengal has posted hundred of Bengali Medium teachers in Hindi medium schools, which have been eroded the quality of teaching in the Hindi schools. The direct consequences were on the tribal education, which was at the receiving end. ABAVP also had demanded to establish more Hindi primary and high schools in Dooars as the present schools are already over crowded.

    Jharkhandi Tribal prefers to receive education through Hindi medium schools as the govt. had established those schools in Dooars. However, they are unable to receive degree level education as govt. of West Bengal is not inclined to introduce Hindi in degree level instructions and exams. Here again, the Jharkhandis are at the receiving end. It’s really ironic for the nation that though govt. of West Bengal has accorded approval for Urdu and Nepali medium in degree level instructions and exams, it is against only for Hindi. By the way, Hindi is the Official Language for the offices of Central Govt. of India, under the article of 343 of Indian Constitution.

    On one hand govt. declared that it is endeavoring with all the available means to send all the children to schools for the development of the nation, however, its own policies deprive Indian citizens for education.

    Dooars the land of promise

    Dooars, the land of green meadow of tea gardens, towering shirish, teak, betel nuts, bamboo, and numerous other green trees, innumerable big and small rivers and streams flowing from the great Himalayas, the one horned Indian rhinoceros, elephant, deer, bison, boar, beautiful birds, picturesque locations and Royal Bengal tiger. Dooars is also the home of major community like Jharkhandi, Bengali and Nepali, along with minority like Marwari, Bihari, Assamese, Bodo, Rabha etc. Once upon a time for many-many centuries, this vast and fertile land wrapped with thick forest and major populations were the wild animals, who were reining the land like the great emperor Ashoka. Then Bodo, Rabha and Bhutia began to live along the peripheries and began their life as semi-hunter and agriculturist. More than two hundred years ago, few British saw the land as the promising land for tea cultivation. The land was not only covered with thick green forest, but, it was also blessed with perennials rains for almost two third part of the year, the chief condition for growing tea plants. The British companies began planting of tea shrub with the help of small number of hired labourers from the local scrubby population. The concept of hiring labourers and engaging for daily wages, obeying the commanding tone of outsider master were alien to local population who were accustomed to the liberal life of self engaging in daily chore. The liberal minded local population did not accorded the new concept of engaging hire and fire rules for sake of their liberal traditional life. Their non cooperation in tea plantation, forced tea planters British to see alternative source of labourers and they venture to far flung area like Chotanagpur and Nepal for cheap and obedient labourers who could toil in inhospitable land like Dooars, which, still known as malaria prone area. With the help of the administration, British started to lure the poor but laborious and brave Jharkhandi and Gorkha for plantation areas in Dooars along with Assam and Tarai in Darjeeling district. The innocent and poor Jharkhandi and Gorkha started their journey in groups to a promising land where they could start a new life with green promises they heard from the labourer agents of British planters. The agro-plantation based industrialization was new for this land and the new industries required educated clerks who could help tea planters to manage the whole affairs of newly erected tea gardens, hence, the planters lured educated youth from Calcutta and Dhaka which were the seats of education in those days. With the advent of many groups like managers from England, clerks from Calcutta and Dhaka, labourers from Chotanagpur and Nepal, the great activities of tea production started in Dooars and its neighboring area in Darjeeling and Assam. The land was promising indeed; despite of that, only few were in support to make it their home. All the folk from Chotanagpur, Nepal, Calcutta and Dhaka used to work for few months and then they used to go to their native home in villages and town. During those days breaking link with native places and settling down in unknown places considered a taboo in family and society. Maximum tea labourers wanted to earn few buck within few months and fund it in their villages for better amenities. They wanted to earn and invest in landed resources at their native palaces. Initially, a vast majority of laborers used to come to Dooars for only few months for every year and went back to their native villages. However, slowly, few made it their permanent home owing to various reasons. Few wanted to settle down at far flung areas from their warring relatives. Few had no sufficient land to settle down in villages. Few people who born in Dooars had no clue of their parents’ native place as their parents were victims of poor health and other poor amenities and inhospitable working conditions. Few liked the place and working in tea garden. Many acquired lands in the peripheries of tea gardens. Many had no alternative but to work in tea garden. The tea gardens provided them a new order of social life, where many communities were living together and leading life slightly or many degrees different from their social life of native place. Mixed up or cross community marriages and easy social acceptances were new to traditional tribal community. Slowly, other communities were pouring to Dooars as traders and shopkeepers from different parts of India. A sizeable numbers of Chinese also made this land as their home; however, the war between India and China proved their stay critical and they slowly migrated to either China town of Calcutta or out of India. Right from the late of nineteen century, Dooars has developed few small towns of trade and commerce in its lap, which were growing with every passing day with the back drop of tea gardens in far off areas of Dooars. Slowly, Dooars attracted a lot of people from all walk of life and areas of India and abroad. Nowadays, Dooars recognized for its tea, timber, tribal and tourism. A unique pluralistic social structure can be witnessed here. People speak three four languages. People recognize each other cultural pattern. They fight for human rights and oppose injustice and violation of individual rights together. In gist, it gives an example of a society, which has all fabrics of true multicultural society. Dooars a real promising land in India.