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1 Aug 2023

The Telegraph (India)

Operations suspended at Tasati Tea Estate over pesticide spraying dispute

See all tags Allegations

"Work suspended at Tasati tea estate in Alipurduar district with 1,150 workers"

The management on Sunday evening announced the suspension of work on the Tasati tea estate in the Alipurduar district, citing alleged dereliction of duty by a section of workers.

The decision has left around 1,150 workers jobless. They have demanded the
state labour department’s immediate intervention in the crisis.

A source said Sunday was a weekly holiday and after management issued the notice suspending work, all managerial employees left the garden.

“The workers had no inkling of the closure. They came to know about the closure when they reached the factory this morning to join their jobs,” said the source.

Soon, some of the labourers demonstrated in front of the factory, demanding the immediate reopening of the garden.

According to sources in the company that owns the garden, it was recently decided that spraying of pesticides should be done four days a week, instead of twice a week, because of severe pest attacks on tea bushes.

The workers who are assigned the task of spraying, however, didn’t follow the decision.

“Despite repeated notices issued this month, a section of workers didn’t adhere to it. It is not possible to run the garden according to the whims and fancies of a handful of sprayers (workers assigned with the task). As the appeals went unheard, there was no option but to suspend the operations,” a source said.

The workers, however, gave a different version.

Anand Mahali, a worker, said they had a meeting with the management in May on the spraying of pesticides.

“The manager had asked workers concerned to spray 300 litres of pesticides every day. We requested him to reduce the quantity to 250 litres and were doing our work. Today, we were surprised to see that they had closed down the garden on this pretext,” he said.

Sanjoy Bagchi, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association, said the workers were repeatedly asked to intensify the spraying of pesticides to control the pest attack.

“Even an agreement was signed in this regard in the presence of trade union leaders. When the workers didn’t go by the agreement, the management was compelled to close down the plantation,” said Bagchi.