REPORT OF FACT FINDING TEAM

Author: BMS      Date: 14 Jan 2016 11:22:35

State Office: BMS Office, # 10, Kiran Shankar Roy Road, Kolkata 7000001; Phone: 033-22101717

 

Duncans on fault lines!

The leading tea garden company of West Bengal belonging to G.P. Goenkas’ group is in a wrong track since last few years. The company is moving its cards in a very intelligent manner. The huge profit making company has started diverting its funds to Infrastructure ,fertilisers & Chemicals area and also in  sunrise areas .But at the same time  showing lukewarm attitude towards the Plantation sector which provided them enormous wealth and reputation . The Company neither declaring its plantation company viz, Duncans   as sick nor closing down. Because of this ‘dilly dallying tactics’ by the Company, both State and Central government’s are not able to interfere in the affairs. The company has not paid salaries to their employees/ workers for the last 8 months continuously. Earlier also it paid wages to workers on instalments basis. Another biggest fraud is that the company is not providing basic human needs of people like drinking water, ration, electricity and medicines. Due to this many people have died in different gardens like Bagarkote, Hantapara, Dhumchipara, Garganda, Lenkapara etc.

The State Government Officials and Management are singing same song saying that these were not the starvation deaths but deaths are due to non availability of medical facilities at proper time .The management is supplying only FIVE kilograms of Rice and FOUR kilograms of Wheat per person per a month that too substandard quality products. Will the Management tell us how an individual will survive with such a meagre quantity of ration, that too a sub standard quality one? The management supplies drinking water for half an hour per day for around 2500 workers families. Why the Management is in dilemma to declare whether the Garden is closed or running?

 

Fact Finding Team of BMS :

A Fact Finding Team of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh led by Kum .Poojita Sarkar, State President of BMS West Bengal has visited the 4 gardens of Duncuns Tea Gardens on 4th & 6th of November 2015. The Team has visited Hantapara, Dhumsipara, Garganda and Bagerkote Tea Gardens. The Team consists of Sri B. Surendran ,All India Deputy Organising Secretary ,BMS , New Delhi; Sri Shankar Das , State General Secretary ,BMS , Kolkata ; Sri Kusum Lama ,State Vice President BMS ; Sri Biswajith Guha , BMS Darjeeling Dist .Convenor ; Sri Chandra Kanth Basneth , Organising Secretary of  Bangia Cha Mazdoor Sangh  ;  Sri Ramesh Oraun , CEC member ,BCMS ,Karabela TG; Sri Chabi lal Chetri , Naharkata TG , Sri Amith Rai ,Advocate ,Birpada  and Sri Manoj Tigga ,School teacher working among tea garden workers .

The Team met permanent workers, casual workers, family members of deceased people, medical assistants, nurses, village heads, and migrated labour families. Visited factories, water resources, abandoned gardens, wild animals attacked areas, riverside areas where people collect stones for their livelihood, collected samples of ration supplied.  The Team met both men and women, belonged to dependents of closed factories. The Team also, visited gardens which were closed some time back, but revived later with change of management.  

 

Observations:

  • Utter poverty is a stark reality in Duncans Gardens.
  • The tea garden went into limbo in April 2015 - not abandoned, not shut down and yet not functioning.
  • One of the major positive thing is workers are having attachment & owningness towards the gardens. They did not allow anybody to steal the factory materials, machinery. Even after closing the production, the workers are taking care of garden and factory.
  • In Hantapara TG –The workers have protected the entire machinery of Hantapara TG factory in safe manner. If company decides to resume its production it can start at any time. The management has not declared any lockout. The Hantapara factory is well maintained & clean also ready to operate at any time.
  • In these gardens people does not have any alternate resources. They are ready to work hard, if anyone comes forward to take over the management.
  • The Ramjhore TG which was once under loss and closed has been rejuvenated after taking over by a private party. The State and Central governments have given some special concession to this management. Today this garden is able to provide a respectable livelihood to more than2500 families. Ramjhore TG is neighbouring TG of Duncuns TG

 

Livelihood : A big question

  • Salaries are not paid for the last several months.
  • Most of the managing staff vacated the gardens and shifted to safe jobs in other parts of the country.
  • The workers who do not have any alternate jobs are only staying at all these gardens; most of them are age old or children.
  • As per the oral instructions of the Management ,the workers have started to do "cash plucking" – means pluck leaves from Bagrakote and sell them to "bought leaf" factories’ from 2015 August onwards,
  • In some gardens like Hantapara, Garganda, Dhumchipara where young leaves exists women go for plucking leaves from their respective gardens and sell them to “bought leaf” factories at the rate of Rs 4/ per kilo. Whereas the Bagerkote and other gardens will get Rs 5/ per kilo. If they are fit and able, normally a worker can get 80- 100 rupees per day.
  • Some people go to other gardens which are in long distance on daily wage basis and lives with the mercy of other Gardens workers / managements.
  • Collection of stones from the rivers adjoining to Bhutan is another source of income for few people.
  • Lot of younger generation have migrated to Kerala, Delhi, Sikkim and Dubai in search of livelihood.
  • If young women who worked as Migrant labour returns from Delhi or Kerala will not get any Social status. Their marriages are becoming big issue. Thus a new social problem is arising out of the crisis.
  • Death reports- Bagarkote 14; Hantapara 07; Dhumchipara 15; Garganda 02;
  • On 2015 November 2nd some media reported about the 2 deaths in Bagarkote as starvation deaths and there was big hue & cry over the incidents. This garden is located in main area. Whereas gardens like Tulsipara, Hantapara, Dhumchipara and Garganda are located in most interior parts at which there are no communication facilities also. Reasons for deaths are lack of food, lack of medicines at proper time, lack of safe drinking water, lack of protection from rains and cold waves. The Hantapara is very interior area, which is adjacent Totapara, a protected area for primitive tribal’s called as “Khedia”.
  • The team strongly feels that, there is a possibility of more deaths in the winter season as many of them does not have winter cloths.
  • The Team visited the Bagerkote TG. The hospital records clearly indicate the death of 14 people from 1st September to 6th November 2015 due to different medical problems. The medical department may name them some medical language / jargons, but they died without food & medicines at proper time are the reality. After 2nd November the department alerted and started acting fast, thus it saved 3 lives.

 

Pathetic living conditions :

  • The company provides them 5 kg rice and 4 kg wheat per month per person .This is only for permanent workers. It will not provide anything to contract workers or casual workers who are working since many years and born &brought up in the same gardens. The ration supplied is very substandard quality one. For the rest of days the workers has to purchase the rice at Rupees 28- 32 which is beyond their capacity. So many people depend upon the forest roots, tea flower and local available shrubs & small animals. This is spoiling their health and developing many deceases which lead to their deaths. The authorities declared them as deaths due to non availability of medical care at right time. But the reality is different.
  • Like in Garganda, The gardens is having hospital, Doctor, compounder but don't have any medicines. For small problems people has to go for Madarghat PHC by paying Rs100/ per head. Most time, these people will be sent to Birpada Government. Hospital. If it is little bit complicated means, than it will be referred to Silliguri. Due to lack of money majority prefer death instead of going to Silliguri which is out of reach.
  • As there is no proper maintains for last few years, the gardens have turned into jungle and became the shelters for leopards, elephants and poisonous snakes. Hantapara and Dhumchipara garden people are the victims of leopard attacks & snake bites, whereas Garganda people are suffered due to elephants and Bagarkote due to wild animals.
  • As per the Plantation Act, the company has to provide some basic materials for workers to protect themselves from nature’s fury. In Dhumchipara Tea Gardens- Umbrella, Chappals, Blanket, Bags, and Tarpaulins were not given for the last 4 years.
  • Timber smuggling: Timber smuggling is going on in an organised manner. The local officials are hand-in glove with these smugglers. The armed gangs will openly cut trees in broad day light. The blame comes on tree tribes.
  • Power supply: In almost all gardens power supply has disconnected due to non payment of bills by the management. Another surprising thing is, the management is supplying power through the company meter. So the Electricity department is charging electricity bill on commercial rates not on domestic rates. This has become another hardship where they have limited power supply.
  • Acute water scarcity: All the gardens are facing acute water scarcity. The company has totally failed to provide safe drinking water. Lack of safe drinking water is also one of the main reasons for the death. In Bagarkote & Garganda, people have consumed highly contaminated water.
  • The workers with their own contributions are running the motor engine for water pumping. The water will be released for half an hour only. Within this short duration the entire population of each village has to collect water. Normal water level is around 800 feet. They require 40 litres of diesel for that purpose. Either the Company or the District Administration is not supporting.
  • They send small water tankers to some area only. It is a regular scene in these areas, that people will have walk 2to3 kilometres for want of water. Due to lack water many people are not able to take bath regularly.

 

The down fall :

 

  • Once Duncuns TG was very well maintained. Their managing staff were enjoyed the luxurious life. But, when crisis started all left. The exorbitant expenditure, the hi-fi life styles of Management, unplanned expansion, purchasing of high cost machinery, the Central government policy on Urea, the import policy, reducing tea rates are the reasons for down fall.
  • Huge amount of Gratuity dues exists. Non payment of Provident Fund is general complainant. Lakhs of PF dues exists. Based on the complaint of a worker about non payment of wages and other dues the State Government has appointed CID enquiry on Duncuns management.
  • The company has diverted its funds/ profits to new areas of business like infrastructure, Fertilisers by neglecting the Plantation sector which gave them a great respect in the markets. Now the entire company is in crisis.

 

THE WAY OUT: What State Government can do?

  • The West Bengal Chief Minister has spontaneously responded after the Bagarkote starvation death report and declared that W.B. government will take over, if management will not act. BMS welcomes the Government move. The Government should not give any  scope to Duncans group .It should take over and  start rejuvenation  immediately as new leaves starts from February ending onwards.
  • The State Government should evolve a separate medical plan at each District level to take care of not only Duncuns group but also sick gardens like BandapaniTG, Dekhalapara TG,Surendranagar TG ,Red Bank TG, Kalchni TG .
  • Increase the number of Mobile medical teams. Each team should be provided with an Ambulance facility.
  • Increase the quantity of ration. Rice from Five kilos to 15 kilos; Wheat from 3 kilos to 10 kilos per person per month. Provide Oil, Pulses, Kerosene at subsidised rates.
  • Sate and Central Government can think new avenues of providing food grains to Tea plantation workers belonging to sick abandoned and closed gardens under Food Security Act.
  • Appoint a Special officer to check the quality of ration supplied to garden workers. State government should take very stringent actions on erring officials and suppliers without any mercy.
  • Some special scheme has to chalk out to provide safe drinking water in all gardens. These areas are in high terrains. Normal ground water level is around 800 feet. So, there is an urgent need of using high power rigs & construction of water tanks. Sending more number of Water tankers. Water supply duration has to be increased.
  • Immediately change the power tariff system. Bring all houses under the domestic user category .also write-off all the old dues to garden labourers.
  • Bring pressure on Duncans management to pay the Gratuity and PF dues to all their gardens workers.
  • The District Collector, Superintendent of Police and District Forest Officials should evolve a separate strategy to curb Timber smugglers. Also to protect people from the wild animals attack.
  • Appoint a special enquiry committee to find out the cause & remedies for the Starvation deaths or Death by distress.
  • Provide educational kits, scholarships to all school students. Also arrange school bus facility.

 

  • What Central Government can do?
  • Formulate an exclusive – “200 days Food for Work Programme” under MGNAREGA scheme for these types of Plantation labourers of West Bengal.
  • Bring all Tea plantation workers under BPL category and provide special assistance to them for protecting their livelihood.
  • Almost all the tea garden workers live only in interior Rural areas of WB, the Central Government can provide electricity connections under Deena Dayal Upadhyaya Grama Jyothi  Yojana .
  • The Central government should provide food grains to these gardens workers Under “Annapurna Scheme”. At present, the people who lived in these remote areas are women and aged people. So, the Ministry of Rural Development has to alter this scheme if needed.
  • The situation is likely to worsen in winter (November last week to February last week) when there will be no leaves and the workers will have nothing to work upon. The issue requires immediate intervention of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries and the State government’s Labour Department. So, a combined strategy is required.
  • Provide Cloths under Janatha Vastra Yojana
  • Immediately implement Widow Pension Scheme and Old Age Pension Scheme effectively.
  • The Ministry of Health should treat the situation as natural calamity situation and provide all types facilities which will be provided under medical emergency.
  • The Ministry of Commerce & Industry should fix responsibility on Tea Board for this worst situation and should take strict action on Tea Board officials.
  • The Commerce Ministry should direct on Duncans management either to start the production or to declare the closure. At the same time, the Ministry should explore all possibilities to start Gardens either by the present management or the new management. The Ramjhore TG model also can be taken as model.
  • The Ministry of Labour & Employment should examine the payment mode of Provident Fund and Gratuity dues of Duncans Company. MOLE should direct the management to pay the dues at an earliest date. It should also direct all the managements to pay the Minimum wages to garden workers.

 

Shankar Das                                                                                    Chandra Kanth Basneth

State General Secretary, BMS                                                       Organising Secretary, BCMS

Kolkata

22-11-2015

 

Annexure1. List of persons died recently in different gardens.

 

1. Bagerkote Tea Gardens, Jalpaiguri District

  (As recoded at Garden Hospital)

Sl.No

Name of the Person died

Name of father/ husband

Age & Sex

Complaint

Date of Death

1

Randhir xalaxo

S/o Late Somey Oraun 

M-56

CVA

14-09-2015

2

Kanchili Sarkini

W/o Late Saila Biswa

F-68

Ciraosis of Liver

19-09-2015

3

Dashmini Mahali

 

F-60

CVA

20-09-2015

4

Bisnuleati Pradhan

Gyan Bin

F-76

Carcimoma

23-09-2015

5

Parbati Lohar

Late Sukram

F-60

CVA

30-09-2015

6

Binoy Kumar Chhetri

Late Man chhetri

M-39

Renal Failure

29-09-2015

7

Sushila Oraun

Late Albish

F-62

CVA

22-09-2015

8

Padam Lal Bhujil

 

M-69

CVA

25-09-2015

9

Mukthi Sonthal

W/0 Lakhan

F-54

CVA

30-09-2015

10

Atowa Oraun

 

M-65

CVA

28-10-2015

Not Recoded

11

Kanchhi Rokini

 

F-68

CVA

28-10-2015    Not recorded

12

Satish Kharka

 

M-54

CVA

29-10-2015   Not recorded

13

Rajen Pradhan

S/o Mani Kumar

M-42

CVA

31-10-2015    Not recorded

14

Ratni Gowalani

 

F-65

CVA

01-11-2015   Not recorded

 

2.Hantapara Tea Gardens, New Alipurdwar District: 7 people died within Two months duration.

 (As per the information given by the co workers of factory)

Sl.No

Name of the person died

1

Ramakrishna Malik Rai

2

Rajen Lohar

3

Fransis Munda

4

Marsol Kharitra

5

Viswanath Mahato

6

Jhariya Mahato (F)

7

Shalimatra  Biswakarma (F)

 

3.Garganda Tea Gardens, New Alipurdwar District.

 (As per the information given by the co workers)

Sl.No

Name of the person died

1

Bishu Oraun

2

Hira Lal Rowtrima

 

4.Dhumchipara Tea Gardens, New Alipurdwar District

(15 deaths as per the information given by co workers and retired nurse)

 

Sl.No

Name of the person died

Sex & Age

Complaint

Date

of death

1

Thumke Lohar

F-62

General debility

29-04-2015

2

Robert Kharia

F-37

Hepatitis

20-06-2015

3

Nicholas Munda

F-55

PTB & Malnutrition

14-07-2015

4

Kumari Oran

F-55

Stroke

21-07-2015

5

Ramesh Rabidas

M-49

Diabetes

08-08-2-15

6

Bajanthi Meher

F-40

Malnutrition

04-08-2015

7

Ram Munda

F-36

Encephilies

27-08-2015

8

Bason Rautia

F-33

Hepatitis

01-09-2015

9

Labin Munda

F-29

Not known

18-09-2015

10

Fulmani Lohar

F-32

Not known

25-09-2015

11

Rukmini Baraik

F-55

Malnutrition

11-09-2015

12

Jet Bahan Lohar

F-55

Malnutrition

11-09-2015

13

Reeta Oraon

F-45

CCF

13-10-2015

14

Karma Oraon

F-45

Chronic Lever decease

27-10-2015

15

Chanchal Mangar

F-48

P.T.B

03-11-2015

  

Annexure -2

BMS & BCMS, West Bengal; Sample Study: Fact Sheet on Duncuns Tea Gardens, West Bengal (4-6 N0vember 2015)

Name of the Garden

Areas & Spread over

No. of workers

 

Ration supplied

Water

Facility

Power  supply

Medical –Deceases & facilities/ Death reports

Salary dues

Provident

Fund

Gratuity

Dues  

Livelihood .Brought leaves

HANTAPARA

Tea Gardens , New Alipurdwar

District.

160 years old –Closed from April 2005

1740 P.W. & around 1300 C.W.;

Around 10000 Populations. Migration to Delhi ,Haryana, Kerala & Bhutan

Rice-5 Kg, Wheat-6 Kg; Raton due 75 times.

Ration supplied only to P.W. Poor quality of food grains.

Supply only for Half an hour per day for entire population. Treacherous

Conditions 

Only for P.W; Irregular supply.

Asthma, Heart attacks, TB, Malaria,

Mal -nutrition.

No ambulance facilities, Pregnant women face unimaginable problems. State Government’s medical team’s visits. Local P.H.C. provides few medicines for both children & aged people.

7 people died within two months.

Salary dues from 2015 April onwards. Irregular payments prior to that. 35 workers have forced to retire without paying 8 months’ salary dues 

Rs 46.33 Lakhs dues from 2011 to May 2015

Rs 84.36 Lakhs from 2011 to 2015 July

Rs 4 / per Kg. Store collects. 70 % production’s is very old. So people get leaves only in Young plants.

Stone collections from rivers.

Name of the Garden

Area & Spread

No. of workers

 

Ration supplied

Water

Facility

Power  supply

Medical –Deceases & facilities/ Death reports

Salary dues

P.F  

Gratuity

Dues  

Livelihood .Brought leaves

2. DHUMSIPARA

Tea Gardens ,

New Alipurdwar District

140 years old. 650 acres. 3 divisions. Closed since 2015 April onwards

1800 –P.W

1000 – CW

50% of Male and 30% Female left villages due to lack of livelihood. Migration to other North Indian States.

Rice -4 Kg ; Wheat -5 Kg per month per person  Most sub standard quality of food grains supplied. From 2012 to 2015  ration dues is 75 

Only Half an hour supply. Long ques. Sometimes water tanks will come. Normally 2-3 KM has to walk for getting water. Many people won’t bath regularly

Irregular supply. 2-3 hours per day. Company is not helping.

Asthma, Heart attacks, TB, Malaria, Mal nutrition.

16 people died due to lack of medicines at proper time, mal nutrition and safe drinking water.

8 Months salary dues. Even earlier 40% dues only 60 % people have paid.

Sometimes this company has paid on instalment basis.

 

Lakhs of Rupees dues. An exact due not knows.

Lakhs of Rupees dues. Exact dues not knows

Rs 4/per Kg . Store collection.

More people go as daily wage workers in other gardens

 

 

 

 

 

.

Name of the Garden

Areas & Spread over

No. of workers

 

Ration supplied

Water

Facility

Power  supply

Medical –Deceases & facilities/ Death reports

Salary dues

Provident

Fund

Gratuity

Dues  

Livelihood.

Brought leaves

GARGONDA  Tea Gardens ,

New Alipurdwar District

125 years old plant. Around 600 acres.

1400 –PW

800 – CW

. Lot of Migration to Kerala, Delhi, Dubai and Bhutan.

Rice -5Kg

Wheat -4 Kg per month per person. Worst quality of food grains supplied.

One hour water supply .Only for P.W. Sometimes tanker supply.  C.W.  Will not get through this. Drank water at which snakes died.

2-3 hour supply per day only for P.W.

This garden is accessible. Not an interior area. Tea Garden hospital exists with Doctor, compounder & infrastructure but without any medicines. Government medical team visit thrice in a week. A mobile medical van comes once in a week. But no ambulance facility.

2 people died recently.

 

7 months salary dues. Earlier also salary has been paid on instalment basis.

Huge quantity ‘Dues in Lakhs. Workers are doubtful whether their PF contribution has paid or not .

Huge quantity. Figures not known

Rs 4/per Kg.

Goes to other distant gardens as daily wagers. Lives with the mercy of others. “Karo ya maro ” situate on .

 

 

 

Name of the Garden

Areas & Spread over

No. of workers

 

Ration supplied

Water

Facility

Power  supply

Medical –Deceases & facilities/ Death reports

Salary dues

Provident

Fund

Gratuity

Dues  

Livelihood.

Brought leaves

4. BAGERKOTE  Tea Gardens ,

Jalpaiguri District.

More than 100 years old.

1475 P.W.

Around 1000 C.W.- No information ;

Migration to Punjab ,Haryana, Delhi

 

Rice 6 Kg; Wheat 4 Kg per month per person.

Sub standard food grains are supplied.

Supplied by Block Development Office after the news on death reports.

Limited hours supply

After the starvation deaths reports, the State Government became alert. Now One Doctor with an Ambulance has deputed from 02nd November 2015. SDO & BDO visited.

14 persons died. 3 people survived due to availability of Medical assistance at right time.

8 months salary dues. Rs 38 lakhs up to July.

 

Fringe benefits are due since last one year

2.68 Crores

Around 80 Lakhs

 

LIC sues 20.89 lakhs

Rs 4-5 per Kg .

Store collections .

 

 

Annexure 3: Photos  

BMS Fact Finding Team –Visit to Tea Gardens belongs to Duncans

Company, West Bengal. 2015 November 4-6.

 

Meeting and factory visit at Hantapara TG, New Alipurdwar District.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting with Dhuchipara TG workers , Factory visit


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting with Garganda TG workers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting at Bagarkote TG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

List of deceased people maintained by Bagarkote TG hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water! Water! – A most precious thing in Duncuns.  Long ques , long distance , long waiting ...... still less hopes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you the Ration that was supplied by the Company???

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sub standard quality of Rice & wheat are supplied. Rice was very old stock also with smell. Both the wheat and Rice contains small stones dust particles of soil. The Ration will be supplied only to Permanent workers. The plight of Contract / Casual workers still worse.

 

The Roads.... During rainy seasons these people will cut-off from the main stream areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not just dry River! But It is Road cum River!       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Different Tea Gardens of Duncuns group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Factory Visit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
[email protected] Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh