Assam tea plantation workers protest land clearing for airport

Afraid of losing their livelihoods, they urgently seek the attention of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma

Afraid of losing their livelihoods, they urgently seek the attention of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma

GUWAHATI

Workers at a tea plantation in Cachar district, southern Assam, fearing they will lose their livelihoods after part of the estate was cleared for a commercial airport, have sought the minister’s attention Chief Himanta Biswa Sarma.

About 2,000 Doloo Tea Estate workers have been protesting since May 12, when district authorities hired diggers to uproot tea bushes for a new Greenfield International Airport project. The place is near Kumbhirgram, the existing Barak Valley airport operated by the Indian Air Force.

“The district administration does not allow workers’ union members and affected plantation workers to demonstrate. A few of us have also been detained but we are not giving up on our protest,” said Mrinal Kanti Shome, General Secretary of the Assam Majoori Shramik Union. The Hindu tuesday.

The plantation workers said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which benefits from the votes of the “tea tribes”, should not have “razed” their only source of income.

Agreement signed: civil servants

District officials denied any eviction plans, pointing out that the estate was on government land and that an agreement had been signed between Doloo Tea Company India Ltd and three unions representing airport project workers. Compensation for clearing workers’ dues was factored into the deal, they said.

But the workers said they rejected the deal in two public hearings in the Moinagarh and Lalbagh divisions of the 9,965 bigha estate. The airport project will occupy about 2,500 bighas in 21 sections of the tea plantation.

Mr Shome said the government could have spared Doloo, a fairly lucrative estate, and used land from a locked out estate.

Ramandeep Kaur, Cachar Police Superintendent, said the situation in Doloo was normal and work to clear the area for the airport project was progressing smoothly.

There is speculation in the Cachar district that the chief minister will meet the restive plantation workers by the end of the month.

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