Tea workers passing hard days

Over four hundred workers of Baikunthapur Tea Garden in Habiganj's Madhabpur upazila with their family members have been passing days in hardship as they are not getting paid their wages or receiving rations for nearly a month.

During a visit to the teagarden area this correspondent saw, due to the closure of the rationing, about 409 permanent workers of the tea garden along with their 2,000 family members are facing acute food crisis and living on either starving or half-fed.

Baikunthapur Tea Workers' Movement Committee President Manib Karmakar told this correspondent that though the garden owner was supposed to provide housing facility to all the permanent workers, one of the workers Dilip Keut didn't had any house to live long.

Despite repeated reminder, the garden authority did not take any step in this regard.

After a long wait, Dilip took verbal permission from the manager of the tea garden and erected a tin-shed house on a cropland inside the garden in the middle of November last year.

But, by the end of November, surprisingly the garden owner served an eviction notice and asked Dilip to remove his house from the cropland.

Later, when other tea workers protested the eviction notice and spoke in Dilip's favour, the garden authority verbally warned some and told them that they would lose their job if they continue their agitation.

But, in the face of continuous agitation by the workers, the authority concerned closed the tea garden on December 8.

In addition, they also stopped the wages and rations of the workers from the same day, Manib added.

Tea worker Rupanti Rabidas said all of a sudden the owner closed the tea garden and put them in huge trouble.

Most of them passing their days either starving or taking loan from local moneylenders, she said.

While talking to this correspondent, Marzia Prova, rights activist, said failing to tolerate the hunger many workers and their family members falling sick.

Moreover, they were not getting any treatment facilities as the tea garden hospital has remained closed for the past four weeks.

On December 14 last year, the garden authority filed a case with Madhabpur Police Station against 12 workers for launching vandalism at the garden premises.

Acting Manager of Baikunthapur Tea Garden Shamsul Haque said the situation arises after one of the workers started erecting a house on agricultural land without prior permission from the garden authorities.

They will go for a tougher agitation if their 25-point demand are not met by January 3, Bangladesh Tea Workers' Union Acting General Secretary Nripen Paul said.

Deputy Director at Sreemangal Divisional Labour Office Nahidul Islam said they called the two parties for a meeting at their office today (Monday).