Lockout lifted, Cachar garden reopens after nine days

SILCHAR: Work at the sprawling Kalaincherra Tea Estate in Assam's Cachar district resumed on Tuesday, nine days after a lockout was declared in the garden following a dispute between its management and workers.

The lockout at the estate, owned by the Kolkata-based Lova Tea Co, had rendered 800 workers and 35 employees jobless. The garden reopened following a negotiation reached between the management and the workers unions held on Monday evening.

While the union leaders pledged to help maintain peace in the estate, the representatives of the management agreed to consider the labourers and employees' demands related to work.

The Lova Tea Co Ltd was represented at the meeting by garden manager A R Mourya, while the Intuc-affiliated Barak Valley Cha Shramik Union was represented by assistant general secretaries Dinanath Baroi and Sanatan Mishra among others. Members of the Indian Tea Employees Association were also present at the meeting. Tea Association of India (TAI) chairman P K Mishra took part in the reconciliation bid on behalf of the management.

The reopening of the garden, situated near the Assam-Meghalaya border on the western fringe of Cachar district, came as a major relief for the labourers. Since early in the morning, hundreds of workers were seen heading towards the estate. According to sources, another round of meeting between the management and the workers' union representatives will be held on August 20 to finalize payment of wages and distribution of ration for the lockout period. On July 21, the first round of meeting was held between the management and the unions. But it had failed to reach any consensus.

The management cited security reasons to announce the lockout due after several women labourers were engaged into a verbal dispute with a tilababu of the garden over workload on July 15. The tilababu was accused of harassing a woman worker. On July 16, the workers gharoed the bungalow of the garden manager. The following day, the manager fled the garden.

The three districts in the Barak Valley -- Karimganj, Hailakandi and Cachar -- has 104 tea gardens. But over 40 gardens are either sick or under lockout.