Updated: November 23, 2014 6:47:36 pm
In a chilling reminder of the problems plaguing the tea gardens in North Bengal, the owner of a tea estate, who was in his mid-50s, was Saturday allegedly hacked to death by workers after talks to sort out a dispute over payment of wage arrears failed, a senior district official said.
The incident was reported from Sonali Tea Estate in Malbazzar area of Jalpaiguri district and the deceased has been identified as its owner Rajesh Jhunjhunwala, District Magistrate (DM) Pritha Sarkar said.
According to the police, the tea estate had been witnessing some problems over daily wages of the labourers. A group of labourers had been staging a dharna inside the garden for the past few days demanding settlement of their long pending wage arrears.
They said Jhunjhunwala reached the tea estate late in the evening to hold talks with the agitating workers.
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“During the talks, an altercation broke out between the owner and the workers as the latter demanded that Jhunjhunwala clear all their wage arrears. Jhunjhunwala expressed his inability to do so and also refused to pay them the day’s wages. The workers became violent and attacked Jhunjhunwala,” said Kunal Agarwal, SP, Jalpaiguri.
The workers started beating the owner and allegedly hacked him to death. His body was yet to be recovered from the spot till the last reports came in.
“Our officers have reached the spot. They are assessing the situation now,” the DM said.
Police have started investigations into the case though it was not confirmed whether any complaint has been lodged or if anyone has been arrested.
Sources from the tea garden said Jhunjhunwala was not a member of Planters’ Association for the last two years. The estate is located near Siliguri and maximum portion of the garden has been been leased out for activities other than tea plantation. Sources added that no involvement of any union has been found in the incident, which appeared to be a spontaneous agitation.
The incident comes almost four months after the CEO of Northbrook Jute Mill in Bhadreshwar was beaten to death by agitating workers.
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