The projected Greenfield Airport in Assam’s Barak Valley has hit a roadblock, with protesting tea garden workers from the Dolu tea plantation in Cachar fearing job losses and refusing to budge despite repeated attempts to persuade them.
The proposed Dolu Greenfield Airport’s 325-hectare area has been impeded multiple times due to enormous protests from the tea garden’s 1,700-plus workers.
The district administration and police force have made multiple excursions to the tea garden, armed with anti-riot reinforcement, but to no avail.
“We are not andolankari,” says Satyam Sautal, a tea garden worker
“For the past two to three months, we’ve been attempting to get this airport out of our neighborhood. If the airport is built here, there will be chaos. The poor will perish altogether, and the government will simply come to pressurize us. Don’t we come into the ‘sab’ category when the government states ‘Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas’? We are poor and have little understanding of the Memorandum of Understanding, but one thing is certain: we are not andolankari,” says Satyam Sautal, a tea garden worker.
At the office of the Cachar deputy commissioner, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Dolu Tea Company Private Limited, different trade unions representing tea garden employees, and the district administration to establish a Greenfield airport in the tea estate.
According to the current proposal, the tea estate will donate roughly 2,500 bighas of land for the development of the Barak Valley airport.
Tea garden employees’ jobs will be maintained, according to the MoU, so that the decline in the land pool did not result in job loss. All dues to the tea estate’s workers will be cleared upon receipt of compensation from the state government, and the company will not retrench or lay off any workers, according to the agreement.
“Outsiders are to blame for the current protest. Due to hostility to discussions, the MoU has been misconstrued. In the 325 hectares of land dedicated to the airstrip, there are no labor quarters. This site is home to a more than 100-year-old plantation. Aside from the 508 hectares of land leftover from the 835 hectares under cultivation, there are 101 hectares of virgin land available for plantation. A 48-hectare plantation may be revitalized, and one lakh infilling can be done to increase the garden’s yield. “The garden’s nursery has the ability to grow four lakh saplings,” said Dolu Tea Estate manager Sudipto Sirkar.
When the laborers protested the turning over of the garden area to the airstrip on April 19, Sirkar was rescued by the police. Dolu Tea Estate and its three sub-divisions, owned by Kolkata-based Vision Tea Industries, produce roughly 15 lakh kg of quality Assam CTC tea.
According to estimates, there are approximately 9,000 tea bushes per hectare of land, with 325 hectares dedicated to the airport.