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J’guri garden closes; planters seek action

Statesman News Service | Siliguri |

Huldibari Industries and Plantation Co Ltd on Friday issued a notice declaring suspension of work after a group of irate labourers assaulted senior manager V Mandal, paraded him with a garland of shoes and illegally confined him for over two hours on 21 March.

Following the suspension of work, hundreds of workers have been rendered jobless, while the notice, pasted on the factory gate, was also circulated to all authorities concerned.

The planters’ fraternity, meanwhile, said it would urge the district administration and police officials to take action and arrest those who assaulted the senior manager.

In the suspension of work notice, the management pointed out that officials of the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union (PTWU), along with workers affiliated to them, barged into the office of the manager and engaged in a heated altercation over general grievances of the workers.

The group kept him under illegal confinement for about two hours on 20 March too, the notice said. “Furthermore, on 21 March, the workers of the garden, irrespective of their union affiliations, held a gate meeting for nearly three hours where provocative speeches were delivered against the garden management, threatening the officials with dire consequences,” the notice said.

After the gate meeting, about 700 to 1000 workers illegally trespassed the office and once more barged into the senior manager’s office and started assaulting him.

In a press release, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association (DBITA), Sumanto Guho Thakurta, said: “The violent workers have sent shockwaves throughout the tea industry. The incident is not only shocking, but also highly condemnable.”

Mr Guho Thakurta also thanked the police and said: “Had the police not rescued Mr Mandal in time from the clutches of the mob of violent and hostile workers, his life perhaps would have been in danger as the situation had become extremely volatile.”

According to sources, angry workers not only assaulted the senior manager, but also paraded him for 5 km from the garden office to the Binnaguri Chowpathi with a garland of shoes and slippers around his neck.

“Workers need to understand and change their mindset. Economic activity cannot flourish in an atmosphere of disturbance, turmoil and instability, especially in highly labour intensive tea industry,” Mr Guho Thakurta said, adding, “If such violent attitude is allowed to continue with impunity, very soon it will lead to a situation where the tea industry might find its existence in question.”

Asked about labourers’ claims and demands, Mr Thakurta said: “There is a mechanism under the Industrial Disputes Act where the workers, if they have been aggrieved, can appeal for redressal of the grievances, but the act of workers taking law in their own hands is deplorable.”

“The planting fraternity would urge the district administration to take appropriate action against those who were responsible for the heinous attack on Mr Mandal,” he added.