Mamata seeks immediate steps by centre for closed tea estates

Hasimara: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday urged the central government to take immediate steps regarding its bid to take over control of closed tea estates in north Bengal. On a four-day visit to north Bengal, Banerjee also said the state government was mulling reviving a number of other closed tea gardens. "Prior to the (Lok Sabha) polls, the centre had announced taking over the tea estates which are now lying closed. Their fate continues to be in a limbo. I will urge the centre to take immediate steps in the matter and ensure all the workers of these gardens get their dues and arrears," she said after holding an administrative meeting here in Alipurduar district. The union commerce and industry ministry had on January 28 issued the notification under section 16E of the Tea Act, 1953, for taking over the management/control of seven tea estates contending they were "managed in a manner highly detrimental to the tea industry and public interest". While six of the estates, namely Birpara, Garganda, Lankapara, Tulsipara, Huntapara, and Dhumchipara, are run by Duncans Industries, the seventh - Demdima tea estate - belongs to Duncans but is operated by the Santipara Tea Co Ltd. Challenging the notification, both Duncans and Santipara Tea moved the Calcutta High Court, which in March upheld the notification. "The state government has been doing all it can for the welfare of the workers of these estates. We have been providing them food, health services and electricity," said Banerjee who after coming to power for the second time in the state, in May announced forming a directorate for the tea gardens.  She also said the state government was planning to formulate a policy for taking over control of some other closed tea estates. "There are several other tea estates which are lying closed. We are trying to formulate a policy, we will do a review and will go for auction. Interested parties may take over the estates," added Banerjee.