Doloo tea estate workers protest Greenfield Airport project

Amidst heavy rains and surrounded by security forces, Assam’s tea estate workers decry plans that leave them on the brink of unemployment and economic ruin The Wire

The sky and mood in Doloo tea estate, Assam have been overcast since the demolition of part of the plantation on May 12, 2022. Even as late as May 19, workers accused security personnel of surrounding living quarters to keep them from protesting against the allegedly illegal Greenfield airport project.

Since April, T.E. workers of Lalbag and Moinagarh divisions of the estate, have been agitating against an MoU giving up around 2,500 bigha of plantation land. Signed by three major trade unions of the area, the owner and concerned government authorities insisted that the project was sanctioned with due considerations of workers.

Yet, latest reports from the region suggest that police and security personnel, far out-numbering workers, continue to patrol the labour-line even after the demolition. Section 144 has also been announced in the area. Speaking to Sabrang India, the District Superintendent of Police  said, “The personnel are deployed until the demarcation work continues. There are a standard number of people for the same.”

However, the New Trade Union Initiative-affiliated (NTUI) Asom Majuri Shramik Union (AMSU) pointed out that the force far out-numbers the workers in the two divisions. RTherefore such, it accused authorities of trying to supress workers’ protest. The Wire estimates around 1,900 T.E. workers in the entire Doloo tea estate.

Doloo Tea State

Doloo Tea State

Photo-Credits:  Manas Das

What is the airport project controversy?

On March 7, the Barak Cha Shramik Union (BCSU), the Akhil Bharatiya Chah Mazdoor Sangha (BCMS) and the Barak Valley Cha Mazdoor Sangh (BVCMS) signed the MoU with the Doloo Tea Company India Ltd.

According to BVCMS Working President Rajib Nath, the project details ensure zero retrenchment of workers and due compensation to workers. He even went so far as to suggest that the project will help with the connectivity of the region.

However, multiple accounts state that concerned workers had no idea about the project until mid-April. Ensuing protests resulted in two public hearings wherein over 2,300 people signed a demand stating that workers should be regulated before any project work is taken up.

Doloo Tea State

Doloo Tea State

Photo-Credits:  Manas Das

As the AMSU pointed out, the estate is built on leased government land, meaning there will be no compensation. Moreover, while the MoU was made public around April 25 the AMSU is yet to learn about the social and environmental audit for the project.

As per the Right To Fair Compensation And Transparency In Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation And Resettlement Act, 2013, the government must undertake a Social Impact Assessment study effect of the project on various components such as livelihood of affected families, public and community properties among other things. Compensation is determined based on such reports. Further it says any person, who contravenes such compensatory provisions shall be liable to a punishment of six months which may extend to three years or with fine. Still, the union is yet to confirm such an assessment.

“We do not know if the audit report exists. We will soon move the High Court. The workers were not taken into confidence for this airport plan,” said AMSU District President Mrinal Kanti Shome, who outright called the May 12 demolition “evictions”.

As for Nath’s claims of development, Doloo is the largest tea estate in South Assam. As per its own estimates on social media, it produces 2.4 million kgs of black tea. Far from helping workers, the handing over of land is likely to create a surplus of labour that will lead to down-sizing of workers, said AMSU.

On Thursday, AMSU submitted a letter to the Silchar Deputy Commissioner about the “tremendous economic hardship” faced by Lalbag and Moinagarh divisions’ T.E. workers. After the 30 lakh tea bushes and thousands of trees were uprooted, workers have lost their main source of income.

“Due to promulgation of Section 144, they are confined to their labour-line and the inclement weather and flood situation has also exacerbated their confinement without any daily earning,” said the AMSU in the letter.

The Union talked about how parents are hard-pressed to provide food for their children due to their “helplessness”. It appealed to the authorities to allow a team of union leaders and/or organisers with vehicles loaded with relief materials to visit workers and distribute relief as emergency measures against the humanitarian crisis.

It also stressed that the district administration must find work for them immediately after the ban against gathering of people is lifted.



Chhattisgarh police arrest tribal rights defender, allegedly on fabricated charges

Were only 1,064 Tribal families displaced in Odisha for mining in the last 10 years?

SC sets aside NGT order shutting down factories operating without Environmental Clearance

Dhinkia: A story of perseverance against administrative oppression



Related Articles