Four Tea Gardens to reopen on Jan 15

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Jalpaiguri, Jan 10 (UNI) The Tea Board has finally taken the decision to reopen at least four tea gardens in the district by January 15.

DM Ramchandra Ranjit today said, ''The Centre is enthusiastic regarding the reopening of the tea gardens here and the administration has already begun the process, duly working under the state government's orders.'' About 16 tea gardens had remained closed so far, out of which Bamundanga-Tundu, Chinchula, Kathalguri and Ramjora will be reopened, district administrative sources here said.

Out of the four gardens, the state government has decided to auction Kathalguri and Ramjora, while in the case of Bamundanga-Tundu and Chinchula, their ownership will be handed over to willing parties under the !6(E) Act, 1953 by the Centre.

The sources said that in Decemeber last year, a committee, headed by Ministry of Commerce and Industry Member Secretary A P Sharma, was constituted to make a detailed survey of the closed tea gardens in the district and today's decision was an outcome of the decision taken by the committee.

The sources also added that apart from Kathalguri and Ramjora, the state government is also considering the reopening of Shikarpur and Shamsingh tea gardens. The Centre has asked the state to submit a feasability report in this regard.

Furthermore, the Centre has also taken up the cases of Chamorchi, Rate Bank, Kalchini, Raymatang and Dheklapara, for which the Central officials have decided to approach Calcutta High Court to settle several disputes under the 16(E) Act of 1953, sources said.

The state government will also wait till January 15 for the tea garden owners of Raipur and Bharnabari before taking the final decision, administrative sources said.

Meanwhile, National Moni Darnal, Senior Joint Secretary, Union of Plantation Workers', operating under the aegis of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, said, ''Our demads for the reopening of the tea gardens is not new and we are certainly glad about the decision. However, if the government takes positive steps to materilaise the plans and generates ways to bring respite to the emloyees and their families of these tea gardens, who have lost their livelihood after their closure, then the situation could greatly improve.'' However, Defence Committee Plantation Workers' Rights Convenor Samir Roy said that he was not aware of the decision and will only be convinced after the government takes any "real" steps in these lines.

''The government had on many occasions taken such decisions. In fact, Mr Nirupam Sen, Mr Jairam Ramesh had come here and our own DM had promised us these closed tea gardens will be repoened. But, nothing has materialised so far,'' Mr Roy maintained.

UNI XC LL RN1811

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