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July 16, 2014

WB Govt to provide financial assistance to workers of sick tea gardens

WB Govt to provide financial assistance to workers of sick tea gardens

A day before Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee`svisit to Darjeeling Hills, four members of her Cabinet on Tuesday announced thestate government`s `historic` decision to pay FAWLOI (Financial Assistance tothe Workers in Locked Out Industrial Units) to jobless tea workers.

The payment will be effective from threemonths from the date of the plantations` closure. Workers of closed industrialunits used to get FAWLOI after one year from the date of its closure.

Ms Banerjee will be arriving at Bagdograairport at around 2 PM today and leave for Darjeeling Hills.

North Bengal Development Minister GautamDeb, Labour Minister Moloy Ghatak, Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriyo Mullickand Minister of State for Health Chandrima Bhattacharya today held a meeting atUttarkanya, the branch secretariat in North Bengal, with department authoritiesconcerned, including the district magistrates of the two districts ofJalpaiguri and Alipurduar.

Mr Deb said a coordination committeecomprising top officials of four departments – North Bengal DevelopmentDepartment, Labour Department, Food and Supplies Department and HealthDepartment – two district magistrates in the tea belt and other officials hasbeen constituted to monitor the closed and sick tea plantations.

Mr Mullick said they have asked thecommittee to review the position of those tea plantations and implementation ofthe government`s decision to provide succour and send a weekly report to thestate government.

Notably, the state government took upprompt measures in a bid to stop death of tea workers, following the recentdeath of five workers at Raipur Tea Estate in Jalpaiguri.

Addressing the media at Uttarkanya, Mr Debsaid: “Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee has decided to provide FAWLOI justafter three months from the date of closure of a tea plantation. Earlier,workers used to get the payment only after a year from the date of closure.Workers are also entitled to FAWLOI up to a certain period (three to fivemonths) after reopening of a tea estate. This is a historic decision taken by MsBanerjee.”

According to Mr Deb, workers of Raipur TeaEstate, which is opening almost after 10 months, will be getting FAWLOI forseven months as arrears and that it will continue for some time.

He said 20 beds have been earmarked inNorth Bengal Medical College and Hospital for ailing tea workers who are atpresent undergoing treatment in different hospitals in the tea belt.

At present, five tea estates in the Dooarsand three in the Hills are closed. A total of 23 tea estates, including eightclosed plantations, have been identified as sick and the state would providefood grains to 98,000 workers and their families at Rs 2 per kg under the Antadaya Yojana.

According to the ministers, the state willcontinue to provide cooked food under the SahayProkolpo to jobless workers, build houses under the Indira Awas Yojana and the state`s Geetanjali scheme and supply electricity for minimum use.

West Bengal State Electricity DistributionCompany Ltd has suspended power supply to labourers` quarters in the closed teaestates where electricity bill has been pending for a long time.

Mr Deb said a total of Rs 1.75 crore waspending, according to records at the WBSEDCL. “We will discuss the matter withstate power minister Manish Gupta. A special package would be formulated tosupply minimum power to tea workers,” Mr Deb added.