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STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Siliguri, 12 November
A labour department survey, conducted in some tea plantations across north Bengal, has found several instances of the labour acts being violated, said the state labour minister, Mr Purnendu Bose. The department had conducted the survey in 278 tea plantations located in the region to get inputs from the ground.
“The labour department conducted first of its kind comprehensive survey to get inputs about the living condition of the workers of 278 tea plantations. It found some tea plantations violating the provisions of the labour acts, particularly regarding electricity, drinking water and primary health. The scenario is dismal on the front of provident fund and gratuity. We would release the survey report soon, " Mr Bose said in Siliguri today.
He said the state government has sought Rs 100 crore from the Centre for the welfare of the tea workers. "Discussion is continuing with the Centre,” he said.
Vowing that the state government would do everything to uplift the living condition of the tea workers, he said supports from some organisations like UNESCO would bolster the state government’s endeavour. Dwelling on the deaths of the tea workers in three closed tea plantations under the ownership of the Red Bank Group in the Dooars, Mr Bose said malnutrition aggravated by lack of treatment is responsible for it.
“Their wages have remained stagnant for a long time. Nutrition is a far cry as it is difficult for them to manage two square meals a day. Health care system with no qualified doctor to man it has crumbled. All these things combined are leading to the misery of the tea workers,” the minister said.
He said the labour department would take every initiative to reopen the closed tea plantations.
"There were 14 closed tea plantations when the new government took up the reins in 2011. Save for Dheklapara, all the closed plantations reopened. But now six tea plantations, including three owned by the Red Bank Group, have been closed. The joint labour commissioner would convene a meeting soon to reopen these,” he said.
He further said the Red Bank Group is not abiding by the provisions of the act. “They skipped yesterday's meeting. A meeting will be called at the district level and if it fails to yield any result a state level meeting would follow, "he said.