Women not to work in planters’ homes

Dibrugarh, Feb. 12 : One man’s alleged sin has snatched work from scores of women in Lepetkata Tea Estate in Assam.

A day after the estate plunged into turmoil over the alleged sexual assault of a 16-year-old boy, a casual worker, by a garden manager, the labourers’ welfare forum decided it was too risky to allow women workers into managers’ homes. The forum today adopted a resolution that no woman labourer would work in managers’ bungalows from now on.

The 52-year-old accused manager fled from the garden after the controversy, forcing a daylong lockdown in the garden yesterday.

The organisations spearheading the agitation under the banner of the Brihattar Lepetkata-Barbaruah Sramik Surakshaya Samity, the local units of the Asom Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) and the All-Assam Tea Tribes’ Students Association (ATTSA), however, decided not to call a strike.

The functioning of the McLeod Russel India Limited-owned garden almost returned to normal today with assistant manager Gunajit Deka taking over.

Secretary of the Surakshaya Samity Sunil Robidas said the fact that the manager had fled proved that he was guilty. “It is very unfortunate that the manager got involved in sexual harassment of a teenage worker and what is more frustrating is the fact that he chose to flee from the scene,” Robidas said.

“We cannot allow our female workers to risk their dignity for a day’s wage,” ATTSA member Ashok Urang said.

It is a common practice in the gardens to employ women workers as domestic help when they are off duty.

The workers have set a deadline of 15 days for the Dibrugarh district administration and the police to arrest the absconding manager.

The police, however, said the manager may have fled the state and a case had been registered at Barbaruah police station. “We are looking for him and a search has been conducted at some possible places. An alert has also been sounded across various police stations,” said Khurshid Ali, the circle inspector of Moran.

The ACMS general secretary-in-charge and former state labour minister Dileswar Tanti urged the management to sort out the issue at the earliest.