Apeejay Tea’s Unilateral Policies Rub Garden Workers the Wrong Way

Apeejay tea
Representative image

Our Correspondent

TINSUKIA: Apeejay Tea, a unit of Apeejay Surrendra Paul Group and one of the oldest and largest tea producers in the world, is now on the wrong foot after it allegedly compromised its mandate on the welfare of the plantation communities which had been its core priority. Of late, the axe fell on the Central Hospital at Longsowal after a Chief Medical Adviser was appointed by abolishing the post of Chief Medical Officer.

The local ACMS and student bodies, including AASU, vent their ire when a high-level management group led by GM (Finance) Sumitra Paul and Plantation Adviser Nishar Ahmed visited the garden on Thursday. This led to a confrontation with the management. The Dangori Anchalik unit of AASU reacted sharply after the GM (F) commented that financial instability of the garden was the sole reason for the present crisis. The AASU then warned the official not to visit the garden in future. Though the aggrieved workers managed to submit a memorandum on Friday to the headquarters through the CMO, the high-level team, apprehending problems, left the garden quietly the next day. The team was supposed to meet the workers’ union of several gardens at Longsowal to address the grievances of the workers but the team left without meeting the union leaders.

The 200-bedded Longsowal Central Hospital was a leading hospital in Tinsukia district that served employees, garden workers and general public. Of late, it is being systematically annihilated by the management group with its step-motherly attitude. The hospital is without any superintendent and is being managed by only two doctors. A retired surgeon, who was overseeing as acting superintendent, was allegedly removed and replaced by Chief Medical Adviser Dr Siddique who is yet to assume office.

The Apeejay Group clandestinely started shifting its registered office from Talap since 1993 and planned to merge it with the group’s HQ in Kolkata after withdrawing the posts of General Manager and office superintendent. While the number of employees has been reduced from 42 to 28, including five drivers, the company is allegedly increasing the number of posts in the Kolkata office and four group managers have been entrusted to look after 16 gardens. The gardens were initially registered as Apeejay Surrendra Group but over the years the group changed its name very meticulously to Apeejay Tea Limited with headquarter in Kolkata, without obtaining any approval from the State’s Chief Inspector of Plantations, which amounts to gross violation of the Plantation Labour Act 1951, according to a source.

Condemning the unilateral administrative policy of the management, the memorandum submitted jointly by ACMS units of different gardens, tea workers and public demanded that the post of General Manager be restored at Talap’s registrar office. The Longsowal Central Hospital should be equipped to provide proper medical care like bygone days and the patients must not be referred to government hospitals for basic medical treatment and surgery. The memorandum also stated that the management should refrain from curtailing the benefits of workers on the plea of financial loss, adding further that if the garden management failed to address the issues, the workers would resort to aggressive agitation.