With just a month left for Durga Puja, the Dibrugarh district administration has asked the tea garden owners to pay puja bonus to the tea garden workers by September 20.

The tea planters were also asked to announce the ‘quantum’ of puja bonus before September 5 during a tripartite meeting on Wednesday evening that was chaired by Additional Deputy Commissioner Sanjay Dutta.

Dibrugarh’s Assistant Labour Commissioner Kanpai Das on Thursday said, “We have asked the tea garden owners to announce the percentage of puja bonus before September 5.”

Also read: Assam: 20 pc bonus must be disbursed before Durga Puja, says ACMS

“They have also been asked to make the bonus payment by September 20 so that the workers get enough time to make their puja purchases,” added Das.

On Thursday, former Union DoNER Minister Paban Singh Ghatowar urged the tea industry to pay the highest rate of bonus (20 pc) to the tea garden workers this year.

Ghatowar, who is also the president of Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), made the appeal to the tea industry during a press conference at Dibrugarh.

His appeal came in the backdrop of the recent announcement of the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) that the tea industry might not be able to pay more than the minimum 8.33 pc bonus.

The CCPA mentioned the cause of the inability to pay the highest rate of bonus this year as the ongoing recession in the tea industry.

The bonus is paid as per the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965

“We urge the tea industry to pay the maximum 20 pc of puja bonus to the tea garden workers. The garden workers are already lowly-paid by the gardens,” said Ghatowar.

“They deserve the highest rate of bonus which is paid once in a year during Durga Puja,” he added.

“It is a sensitive issue for the workers and anything less than 20 pc of bonus may result in dissent among workers leading to serious law and order situation,” Ghatowar further said.

CCPA has representatives of Assam Branch Indian Tea Association (ABITA), Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA), Tea Association of India (TAI), Bharatiya Chah Parishad (BCP), North-Eastern Tea Association (NETA), Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) and Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA).

The tea industry was urged to transfer the bonus amount directly to the bank accounts of the workers instead of the old method of cash payment.

This year, Durga Puja will begin from October 4.

Under the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, the minimum bonus payable is 8.33 pc while the maximum rate stands at 20 pc.

All permanent and temporary workers, who have worked for a minimum period of 30 days, are entitled to the benefit.

Last year, tea industry leaders like Goodricke, Mcleod Russel, Andrew Yule, James Warren, Grob, Dhunsiri, Stuart Holl, MK Shah Exports, Tata (Amalgamated Plantations), Assam Company, Warren, Apeejay and Russel all had paid the maximum rate of bonus to the workers.

Avik Chakraborty

Avik Chakraborty is Northeast Now Correspondent in Dibrugarh. He can be reached at: babs8oct@gmail.com

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