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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tea union on 50-hour fast

Tea union on 50-hour fast

Jorhat, March 30: The All Tea Tribes Students' Association has launched the first phase of its agitation with a 50-hour hunger strike at Mariani here, in protest against the government's failure to fulfil its demands regarding the Assam Tea Corporation Ltd.

Dhiraj Gowala, assistant general secretary of the association, said the government had failed to live up to the expectations of the workers despite giving a bailout package of Rs 5 crore to the then sick government-owned company in 2005.

"Till today there is an outstanding amount of Rs 40 crore by way of workers' provident fund dues. Add another Rs 40 crore by way of interest to be paid in the PF accounts. A few workers have died after retirement without getting any benefit. Workers are not being paid the industry wage of Rs 89 but a lowly Rs 84. Moreover, like other gardens they do not even get rations," Gowala said.

He added that there were no documents to show how the Rs 5 crore had been spent.

"No audit has been done in any of the gardens since the Rs 5 crore was released and there is no transparency regarding spending and income. Each garden has prepared its own income and expense account and in the absence of a proper audit, there is no knowing whether these are correct or fudged," he said. On the slight improvement in the position of the tea gardens — one or two having shown profits recently — Gowala said this was not enough.

"We believe quite a number of years have elapsed since the bailout package was given and that the public sector company should have shown more profits and been able to get rid of its liabilities, especially regarding the provident fund dues, which it is yet to deposit. That it has not been able to do so is a failure of the chairman-cum-managing director of ATCL and of the power and industries minister Pradyut Bordoloi and chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who has been involved with this issue from the beginning," he said. The association also demanded measures to end the frequent straying of wild elephants from the Gibbon wildlife sanctuary at Mariani, into human habitat.

A memorandum has been submitted to the chief minister in this regard.

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