Five days after Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal set December 15 as the deadline for all tea estates to open bank accounts for labourers, Menoka, a 100-year-old tea estate, on Saturday not only became the first tea estate to open the accounts, but also paid all labourers online. The tea estate is located in Baksa district on the Indo-Bhutan border.
“We are happy that we have been able to do it first. The biggest achievement is that all our labourers are happy. Two weeks ago, they were worried after hearing about demonetisation. But, last week, we managed to pay them in cash with the help of the district administration and this week, they have received wages online,” Pradeep Kumar Singh, manager of Menoka told The Sunday Express over phone. Following the online transfer of wages, the labourers drew the money they needed for the week from the local Customer Service Point of SBI, Singh added.
Currently, 476 permanent plantation labourers work at Menoka, a 354-hectare garden.
Most tea estates in Assam disburse wages on a weekly basis. “While Menoka has done it, three other tea estates in our district, Nagrijuli, Fatemabad and Doomni have managed to get bank accounts opened for more than 50 per cent of their workers,” said Sanjeeb Kumar Gogoi, deputy commissioner of Baksa.
Kishan Kumar Sharma, sub-divisional officer of Tamulpur said the labourers had quickly adapted to the change.
Sunny Chakraborty, manager of SBI’s branch at Darranga-mela said: “Arranging low-denomination cash for tea estate labourers was an issue. But, we managed to do it through team effort.