Siliguri, Nov 24 (IANS) Five workers of the closed Panighatta tea estate in northern West Bengal’s Terai region have died over the last 10 days due to alleged malnourishment and lack of medical aid.
However, the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress has denied that the deaths were due to the closure of the garden.
Fiftenesh Lakra, a permanent worker of the tea garden, died on Monday evening taking the toll to five.
According to locals, earlier, permanent worker Arun Chhetri, Karmella Ekka, dependant Sanjeeb Tigga and retired Majroo Xalxo also lost their lives due to lack of medical treatment and financial crisis.
Arun died on Sunday while Sanjeeb died on November 16, Karmella on November 17 and Majroo on November 20.
But medical officers claimed the deaths were due to prolonged illness and not malnourishment.
The latest deaths occurred during the relay hunger strike organised by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-backed Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Workers Union (DTDWPLU) at Panighatta demanding immediate reopening of the garden.
Amar Gurung, Panighatta unit president of DTDWPLU, said: “Five workers died since November 16 as there were no proper medical treatment and ambulance service.”
He alleged that the state government has “totally failed to resolve the issue” and cannot put pressure on the garden owners to reopen the garden.
Gurung said the hunger strike will continue until the garden is reopened.
Trinamool’s north Bengal hills president Rajen Mukhia said that though the tea garden is closed, till date the situation has not reached such a state where workers were dying due to lack of food and malnourishment.
“Some people have died due to illness and not due to lack of food and medical facilities,” he said.
The tea estate management had on October 11 announced suspension of work alleging lawless behaviour by workers after the garden authorities and the workers had a disagreement over the annual Durga Puja bonus.