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Closed Jungpana Tea garden reopens

Jungpana Tea garden factory The hill Trinamool Congress on Wednesday claimed it was responsible for the reopening of Jungpana Tea Estate in Kurseong sub-division, despite common knowledge it was the management and the garden trade union who engaged in three rounds of meetings to come to a settlement.
Jungpana garden was closed on July 31 with the management citing intimidation by a zonal committee leader of the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labor Union (DTDPLU), which is affiliated to GJM, as well as unnecessary interference on decision making processes.
The meetings on August 1 and 4 spearheaded by the Kurseong SDO and assistant labour commissioner, respectively, failed to yield any positive outcome. The third meeting held Tuesday in Siliguri at the joint labour commissioner’s office finally broke the deadlock and a decision was reached to reopen the garden beginning during the day. Interestingly, apart from the DTDPLU, no other trade union participated in the meeting with the administration and the garden management.
Hill TMC president Rajen Mukhia said, “We facilitated the reopening of Jungpana garden. We had visited the tea garden on August 11 after we heard the workers had refused to accept rations being offered by the district administration. We spoke to the chief minister and our trade union and also the North Bengal Development Department minister seeking their intervention in the matter.”
The Kurseong SDO had issued a notice to the garden management on August 8 directing it to distribute rations to workers within 24 hours. On the contrary, the workers refused to accept the offer on August 10 demanding the garden be reopened first.
While closing work in the garden, the management had clearly state no subsidised rations, wages and other statutory obligations would be met during the period of suspension of work. But after the third meeting the management changed its stance. Mukhia demanded of the administration that the workers be given their wages for the duration of suspension of work, even as he urged the workers to forsake the one trade union structure.
“The workers are not at fault and so their wages accrued during the period of closure should be paid. We also feel the presence of a single trade union in the garden encourages monopoly and this could be detrimental for the workers,” said Mukhia. He also urged the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration to construct a metalled road as the existing one is in an appalling condition. The garden is spread over 77 hectares and employs 260 workers including 41 administrative employees.
The DTDPLU rebuffed the hill TMC’s demands describing it as just a political gimmick.
“They (TMC) have never participated in any meetings. In fact, in the second meeting on August 4 we had more or less come to a conclusion on reopening the garden. The third meeting was called to sort out some grey areas and to announce the decision in a formal manner,” asserted DTDPLU general secretary Suraj Subba.
After Tuesday’s meeting, it has been agreed that the union will not interfere in decision making policies as they will be the prerogative of the garden management and that issues related to workers will be handled by the trade union’s central committee. It has also been agreed that due rations and outstanding wages will be handed out on August 14 and 16, respectively.(EOIC)

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