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SC asks Centre to take over ailing tea gardens

The Supreme Court on Friday directed the government to take over the management of ailing tea gardens across the country and to provide arrears and wages to their workers living in a pitiable condition.



New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed
the government to take over the management of ailing tea
gardens across the country and to provide arrears and wages to
their workers living in a pitiable condition.

The apex court noted that many tea estates have been
abandoned by their owners and workers have not been paid their
dues for several years, pushing them on the verge of
starvation.
It said though some efforts were made to take corrective
measures, the outcome has been "zero".

"Under these circumstance, we direct the central
government to carry out its statutory duty under the
provisions of the Tea Act, 1953," a Bench comprising Chief
Justice S H Kapadian and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and
Swatanter Kumar said.

The Bench directed that the governemnt will take steps
under the provisions of the Act by taking over the management
and clear the dues of the workers within six months.

The court disposed of the PIL filed in this regard in
2006 by International Union of Food Agriculture seeking
redressal of the plantation workers` woes.

The apex court had, during several earlier hearings,
directed the tea growing states of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala
and Tamil Nadu to provide the benefit of Mahatma Gandhi
National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREG) scheme to the
workers of tea gardens who have not been paid the wages and
gratuity for almost ten years.
It had also directed the government to extend the
benefits under ICDS scheme and the Public Distribution System
to the workers of sick tea gardens.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the
International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant,
Catering, Tobacco, Plantation and Allied Workers` Association
(IUF), had conteneded that around Rs 400 crore as wage and
gratuity was to be paid to tea gardens` workers in West
Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu collectively.

The advocate had said the wages and gratuity could be
paid by taking over the tea estates and going for auction.

The petition had pointed to the plight of tea workers
in Assam, Karnataka, Uttaranchal, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil
Nadu, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh.

The PIL had said that as a result of non-payment of
earned wages, provident fund and statutory dues like gratuity,
closure and retrenchment compensation, a situation of
starvation, destitution and despair have spread in tea gardens
of the country.

The court was informed that several companies, which were
given lease of the tea gardens, have abandoned the business
without paying the dues of the workers.

PTI

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