Darjeeling Police officials have asked planters in the Terai region to inform them whenever they carry huge amounts of cash from banks to gardens for payment of wages among tea workers. The move follows an incident of robbery on PWD Road between Ghoshpukur and Kharibari near Siliguri yesterday, when some armed men looted around Rs 26 lakh staff members of the Thanjhora Tea Estate.
The staff members were taking the money to the garden after withdrawing it from a bank in Siliguri around 1.30 pm yesterday. The manager of the Thanjhora TE, Amit Roy, filed an FIR at the Kharibari Police Station under Darjeeling district yesterday, stating that there were around “dacoits” who wielded firearms and looted the cash at gunpoint. According to the FIR, a car overtook the vehicle of the garden, in which the cash was being taken, and blocked the road in front.
Two persons “wearing army uniforms” got down from the car and stopped them. “Immediately, four others carrying guns came in two wheelers from behind and took away the trunk (that had the cash) at gunpoint and fled,” the FIR states. While one group fled towards Kharibari, another went towards Ghoshpukur, according to witnesses. Police sources said no one has been arrested so far.
It is learnt that the management the Thanjhora TE had withdrawn the amount to make the fortnightly payment of workers. “Police officials are trying hard to trace the gang. Police have also asked us to provide the WhatsApp numbers of all tea garden managers so that they can keep in touch with them and support them by providing security to avert such incidents in the future,” the secretary of the Tea Association of India (Terai Branch), Sumit Ghosh, said today.
Mr Ghosh added that planters are trying hard to introduce the online payment system among workers and other staff members so as to avoid carrying cash to remote garden areas.
“However, the digital payment system has not been implemented in some tea gardens due to several technical problems,” a tea garden source said. According to the Secretary of the Indian Tea Association (Terai Branch), Rana Dey, the Naxalbari police station held a meeting with tea garden managers on this issue this evening. “In order to avoid such incidents in the future, we will have to introduce the online payment system soon,” he said.
“To avoid such robbery, we would requisition police escort whenever the garden management carries such huge cash from banks for the payment of wages among workers,” Mr Dey said. Additional Superintendent of Police, Darjeeling, Manaranjan Ghosh, has been monitoring the entire matter after the robbery, sources said, adding that a meeting was held at the Kharibari police station this evening on the issue. After the meeting, Mr Ghosh said that he has urged managers of tea gardens to introduce the online payment system among workers to avoid the risk of carrying huge amounts of cash.