Duncans pay dues at one garden after warning by Mamata

Duncans pay dues at one garden after warning by Mamata

Duncans pay dues at one garden after warning by Mamata

After Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee threatened to take strict action against tea garden owners if they defaulted on provident fund and payment of other dues to workers, reports suggest that Duncans have cleared dues at one of its gardens.

The company, one of the leading manufacturers of tea for the domestic market, is at the epicentre of the ongoing crisis in tea gardens of Dooars in north Bengal, where 26 people have reportedly died due to malnutrition.

Sources told Deccan Herald that Duncans have paid the due  of Rs 28 lakh at their Darjeeling tea garden of Runglee Rangliot, which is one of the premium tea brands out of India.

The payment was also confirmed by a senior executive of Duncans’ tea division, who did not want to be quoted. Sources clarified that payment of dues at the Darjeeling garden will have no effect on the ongoing investigation.

The state CID is probing into the non-payment of wags and statutory dues like provident fund and gratuity to workers.

The CID probe was initiated on November 3 on Mamata’s instruction. The chief minister has taken strong exception to the situation. The 13 tea gardens of Duncans group, owned by industrialist G P Goenka, have stopped operating after workers were not paid wages for more than six months.

Most of the gardens and tea processing units have been abandoned by the company’s staff and a joint committee of trade unions are selling leaves to other tea makers to manage their subsistence.

Duncans stopped paying workers since April, which eventually led to workers refusing to work and most gardens stopping production. For the first time in history, the state government initiated a probe into the crisis with CID looking to question Goenka and his son, who are unavailable.

Sources said that Banerjee has called for an emergency meeting at the secretariat regarding the ongoing crisis at Duncans gardens. “She will discuss ways and means to solve the situation and ensure that workers get due wages. She is also concerned over how to re-open the gardens so that workers can continue to earn a living,” the official said.

The meeting is likely to be attended by four senior ministers, Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Principal Secretary (Home) Basudeb Banerjee, who earlier served as chairman of the West Bengal Tea Development Corporation Limited.

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