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