Nirmala Sitharaman takes stock of ailing Bengal tea gardens

Kolkata, Jan 3 (IANS) Taking stock of the situation of closed tea gardens and the plight of workers in northern West Bengal, union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday assured suitable steps by the central government.
“We are taking stock of the situation and discussing the issue with the stakeholders and the workers. Everyone is playing their role and we are trying to solve the issue,” Sitharaman told media persons in Siliguri.

Over a dozen tea estates belonging mostly to the Duncan Group of Industries are closed leaving several thousand workers in deep distress. Many deaths allegedly due to malnutrition or starvation have also been reported from some of the estates located in Dooars and Terai regions.

While Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during her recent visit to the region had blamed the “Centre’s indifference” for the grim situation in the tea gardens, Sitharaman asserted the union government’s commitment towards solving the issue.

“I have come here twice within one and half year that I have been in the commerce ministry, does that mean the central government has no interest,” she said, assuring necessary steps to ensure the closed tea estates are reopened.

While the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has initiated investigation against the Duncan Group over allegations of nonpayment of wages to workers of their tea estate, a public interest litigation has also been field before the Calcutta High Court seeking government intervention in the matter.

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