A meeting between the tea garden labourers and villagers living inside the garden was supposed to take place with the management and the district administration on Thursday, but, it did not take place owing to the selection of the venue.
The labourers and the villagers demanded the talks be held at the Rosekandy Tea Estate itself, however, the district administration wanted their leaders to come to Silchar and sit for talks.
Meanwhile, many senior staff members including the garden manager, I.B. Ubhadia, are staying outside the tea garden premises while the garden labourers and villagers living inside it are demanding the ouster of the manager.
Northeast Now took a sneak peek into the affairs of the tea garden on Thursday and found close to 3000 garden labourers huddled in a nachghar, a sort of an open amphitheatre inside Rosekandy Tea Estate, waiting for the Cachar Deputy Commissioner to turn up along with the garden management to meet their demands.
Babul Kumar, a social activist and a resident in the tea garden, while speaking to this correspondent said, “Our demand to hold talks inside the garden premises was turned down and instead few of us were asked to meet the authorities in Silchar and hold our talks. This is not acceptable to any one of us.”
“We have also suggested Assam University campus, which is just a few kilometres away from this garden, as a venue for the talks, but the authorities are yet to accept it,” he added.
Kumar also said, “Our demand is only for the ouster of the garden manager, I.B. Ubhadia. He has run an administration just as the East India Company has done in our country, or just like Hitler. Every scheme of the present government has to pass through him and it is up to him as to who deserves such benefits and who doesn’t.”
On being asked of driving out Bengalis working in this tea garden, Babul Kumar said, “This is just a false propaganda spread by the garden management. Ask those who are sitting here today. We cannot think of living without Bengalis in a valley that is dominated by members of this community.”
The garden manager, I.B. Ubhadia, speaking to Northeast Now, outside the Assistant Labour Commissioner’s office in Silchar on Thursday, said, “You see, we have 800 staff members and 8,000 people living in our tea garden. Those who have retired are still staying here and are getting all the benefits. But, if they start to meddle in the affairs of the tea garden, it is not acceptable to the garden authorities. I am not an irresponsible person to spend the money earned by the 800 staff members upon the rest of the 8,000 living out here.”
Ubhadia added, “I would leave the tea garden premises once and for all if the owners of this garden want. I have served here for 35 years. I have grown this tea garden and they are getting all the benefits but those who are not employees of Rosekandy Tea Estate should not interfere in our matters.”
On the demand of his ouster, the manager said, “I have been serving this garden for the last 35 years. If the owners of this garden and the company think that I am not capable of running it, I would step down from this post. I have run this garden efficiently and have increased this estate’s production capacity from 800 kg to 2,200 kg per hectare during my service period. Many others have also worked hard to take it to that spot. I won’t allow people, who don’t work for our garden, to gain footholds with their nefarious designs.”
It may be mentioned that the Assam Chief Minister has called upon the DIG Southern Range on Wednesday to look into the matter and bring the tense situation in the garden under control.
Heavy security arrangements have been made outside the garden and the university campus area to thwart any uprising in the Rosekandy Tea Estate.