Sitharaman proposes measures for ailing Bengal tea estates

Siliguri, Jan 4 (IANS) Assuring revival of ailing tea estates of northern West Bengal, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday proposed setting up a monitoring committee and making suitable amendments in laws.

On the second day of her two-day visit to tea estates in Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, Sitharaman held discussions with representatives from the state government, tea estate owners, Tea Board, unions and workers.

Interacting with the media after the meet, Sitharaman said she proposed setting up a district monitoring committee that will look into the affairs of tea estates and report to both the central and state governments.

Calling for implementation of the Minimum Wages Act, Sitharaman said the Centre was ready to discuss the issue of making suitable amendments in the Plantations Labour Act.

Several tea estates, belonging mostly to the Duncan Group of Industries, are closed leaving thousands of workers in deep distress. Many deaths, allegedly due to malnutrition or starvation, have also been reported from some of the estates.

On the revival of closed and ‘sick’ tea gardens, Sitharaman said she has proposed the state government to take up some of the estates.

Affirming the Centre’s commitment towards solving their issues, Sitharaman assured the workers of ensuring increase in the minimum wages.

Duncan Group chairman G.P. Goenka during the meet with Sitharaman and state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee assured of resolving the issues faced by his tea gardens.

“Both the union minister and the state minister have agreed that the intervention by both the governments was necessary to revive the tea gardens,” convenor of Joint Forum of Trade Unions Zia-Ul-Alam said after the meet.

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