WB Govt announces loan for workers of closed tea gardens

The state government on Tuesday announced soft loan to be provided to the planters of closed and sick tea gardens of North Bengal from the Rs 100 crore special corpus fund for tea industry.

The decision came after state labour minister Malay Ghatak held few rounds of meetings with the tea planters, trade union leaders and the officials of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts here at Uttar Kanya.

State food minister Jyotipriya Mullick also attended the meeting. Later, speaking to reporters, Mr Ghatak said, “The loan at low interest rate would be provided to the owners of sick and closed tea gardens to be used for the welfare of workers.”

The minister said the condition to get the loan is that the planters should use the loan only to carry out workers’ welfare activities.

He also informed that the state government is working to extend the National Food Security Act to the tea gardens by January 1, 2016. Under the act, the beneficiaries would get subsidized ration. The act was implemented in the state from September.

Rs 100 Cr for welfare of tea garden workers

The Mamata Banerjee government will set up a Rs 100 crore corpus fund for the welfare of the 2.62 lakh tea plantation workers in 283 registered tea estates in Bengal.

Labour minister Moloy Ghatak tabled the West Bengal Tea Plantation Employees’ Welfare Fund Bill, 2015, which was passed in assembly on Thursday .

The minister pointed out that many tea estates not belonging to corporate houses or established tea families often violate provisions of the Plantation Labour Act, 1951, that provides for free housing, medical facilities, primary education, water supply , electricity and food grains to workers.

Smaller tea gardens deny these rights, saying they don’t have the money for it. This is why an inter-ministerial committee set up by the Centre and governments of Bengal and Assam recommended that the state share some of the statutory social security measures.

Accordingly , the government will sanction soft loans from the corpus fund to defaulting employers to help them discharge their statutory responsibilities. Children of workers will be given scholarships to study in technical institutes.The corpus may also be used to grant incentives to investors who come forward to take over sick or closed tea gardens.