DOOMDOOMA: The latest move of selling/leasing out 12 out of 15 tea gardens under Assam Tea Corporation (ATC) was opposed by former MLA and current Assam Pradesh Congress Committee APCC) general secretary Durga Bhumij. Addressing a press meet convened at Rajiv Bhaban on Sunday, Bhumij said that the attempt of the government to sell these tea gardens at a throwaway price as low as Rs 35 crore only against its estimated value of Rs 2,500 crore, raised many eyebrows and justifiably led one to suspect foul play and manipulation behind the scene.
Bhumij questioned why out of 15 tea gardens, three of the gardens namely, Bholaguri, Vidyasagar and Chinamora were left out. The sale proceeds included the hospitals, schools and the workers working therein as well. Cautioning that the workers should not suffer in any manner in the process, Bhumij pointed out that these tea gardens owe several crores of rupees to the workers in not paying Provident Fund (PF), Gratuity and other outstanding dues to them. So he demanded of the government to clear all such outstanding dues to the workers.
"If the workers are deprived of their legitimate outstanding dues because of the sell-out of these tea gardens, then the government will be solely responsible," he warned. On the advent of Durga Puja, the tea workers usually hopefully look forward to their Puja bonus. If the ATC gardens are sold out now, then who would pay the bonus to them, he asked. The government did not consult the labour department as well as the tea workers before taking this initiative to sell the gardens.
Bhumij also demanded to give allotment of government land of these tea gardens to the landless workers who had settled there or were occupying the labourers' quarters for a long time. The secretary of the Kakapaher Block Congress, Naren Koiri was also present at the press meet.