By Our Newsmen
Siliguri / Kolkata, 08 December: TWO more Adivasis have died in the distressed tea gardens in north Bengal’s Dooars. One of them was a serving worker of closed Red Bank tea estate at Banarhat; the other was a retired worker at Bagrakote tea garden owned by the Ducans group.
This is even as three workers of the closed Panighatta tea estate in the Kurseong foothills have been admitted to the Naxalbari Block Hospital as their condition deteriorated following a hunger fast since 22 November. A section of the 1,200 odd workers of Panighatta are on a hunger fast demanding reopening of the garden.
The dismal news came on a day the Darjeeling District Legal Aid Forum filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Calcutta High Court, demanding state government’s immediate intervention in restoring the health of north Bengal tea gardens and taking initiatives to facilitate basic amenities such a drinking water, electricity, education and health care etc.
Siliguri advocate Amit Sarkar, who is the general secretary of the Darjeeling District Legal Aid Forum, has filed the PIL. Chief Justice Manjula Chellur has admitted the PIL for hearing.
Earlier in the day, worker Chintamoni Oran (50) succumbed to prolonged illness at her quarter at Red Bank tea estate. The estate is closed since October 2013 and the state government had acquired it sometime ago by cancelling the lease of its owner.
Chintamoni’s family members said that she was suffering from illness caused by malnutrition and they did not have the wherewithal to arrange for treatment.
As the day progressed, a retired worker, Bandhain Oran (68), died at the ill-famous Bagrakote tea garden owned by the Duncans group. She too had been suffering from multiple ailments caused by malnutrition. Bagrakote tea garden is closed since March-April this year and the management has been failing to pay wage and ration to the workers.
West Bengal government, however, has not accepted any of the cases as starvation deaths; every time a worker dies, the administration says they died due to ailments unrelated to starvation.
State food minister Jyotipriya Mullick and labour minister Malay Ghatak held a meeting at Uttarkanya in Siliguri today taking stock of the crisis faced by the tea gardens in north Bengal.