Sunday, November 23, 2014 9:47 am
Angry workers have hacked to death the owner of a tea plantation in eastern India over a payment dispute, police said on Sunday, underscoring festering labour unrest in the region.
Rajesh Jhunjhunwala, 45, was dragged out in the middle of discussions and attacked by the irate mob at the Sonali tea estate in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal state, a local police officer told AFP over phone.
“Our preliminary investigations have revealed that there was some issue of payments. It appears he was attacked by some sharp weapons,” P.T. Bhutia said.
Police were also searching the neighbouring villages as the culprits fled after the incident at the estate, which is spread over some 400 acres (161 hectares) of land in the Dooars region, he added
Tea workers are notoriously badly paid and often housed in poor accommodation in remote areas. They are given little protection by police and cannot take advantage of laws designed to guarantee them health care and fair working conditions, rights groups say.
Last year, workers at a tea garden in neighbouring Assam state bludgeoned their boss and his wife to death before setting the bungalow where they lived on fire over payment and other disputes.
In the latest incident, police said Jhunjhunwala had only arrived at the plantation in the last week and came to sort out differences with his workers.
“He (Jhunjhunwala) did not live here. He came here to pacify his workers as it appears they had not been paid their salaries for the last 2-3 months,” Bhutia said.
Tea plantations in West Bengal are spread over Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars regions which produced 312 million kilogrammes of tea last year, according to the Tea Board of India.