Makaibari 'crown' for workers

Makaibari tea packets
Makaibari (Kurseong): The "Rajah" of Makaibari tea has decided to "gift" his crown to workers.

Swaraj Kumar Banerjee, more famous as Rajah Banerjee, said on Thursday he would "gift" his 12 per cent shares in the marquee estate to the workers.

Barely a fortnight ago on March 16, Rajah had declared that he would exit Makaibari by selling his 12 per cent share to the management of the garden led by the Calcutta-based Luxmi Group.

That announcement had come exactly a year after Rajah's bungalow at Makaibari was gutted in a fire, hastening the 70-year-old's plans to hang up his planter's boots.

If the decision is approved under corporate laws, this will possibly be the first time in the history of Darjeeling tea that the owner of a garden will give up his shares for the workers.
"I will gift my 12 per cent share to the workers," Rajah told a meeting in the garden on Thursday, stressing his aim was to empower the 600-odd workers.
Sources in the Luxmi Group in Calcutta welcomed the move "as long as it is permissible under the Companies Act". "We have no problem if he wants to give away his shares. It is a welcome gesture. We have to see if this is permissible under the Companies Act," a source said.
Industry observers said, however, that the share transfer could turn risky, especially in years of poor earnings. "If the garden does not make enough profits and distributes dividends, workers may feel let down and this could be a tricky situation," one observer said.
Rajah had forged a "strategic tie-up" with the Luxmi Group in 2013 and retained the 12 per cent stake in the estate that his family had been running since taking it over in 1859.
Members of the Makaibari Joint Committee, which represents the workers, on Thursday expressed "gratitude" for the "gift". Rajah made it clear, though, that "the management representative on the panel will not be entitled to the shares".

The Telegraph

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