Five injured as Assam tea estate owner, brother open fire at irate labourers
A tea estate owner and his brother allegedly opened fire at labourers who were demanding a higher bonus in eastern Assam’s Golaghat district on Wednesday.
While five people suffered serious gunshot injuries, 10 others were hurt in the commotion that ensued.
Police said they arrested Sudhir Roy, owner of Bogidhola tea estate, and his brother, Sameer, after “rescuing” them from the mob. While police have recovered a licensed rifle from the duo, another weapon – a pistol – was snatched by the labourers.
“The workers wanted 14% bonus for Durga Puja, but the management was willing to pay just 8.33%. The payment was made last week. However, things took a violent turn when the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (headed by jailed activist Akhil Gogoi) instigated the plantation workers into confronting the owner,” said deputy superintendent of police Partha Pratim Saikia.
The labourers are yet to deposit the pistol with the police despite promising to do so, Saikia said, adding that the injured workers have been admitted to the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital.
Paying a bonus to industrial workers is mandatory under the Payment of Bonus Act-1965. The legislation states that eligible employees should be paid anywhere between 8.33% and 20% of their basic earnings from the previous fiscal.
Tea plantation workers and owners have often clashed in Assam. Irate labourers burnt alive the owner of a Tinsukia tea estate and his wife in 2013. The owner, Mridul Kumar Bhattacharyya, had killed a 13-year-old boy during a protest at another estate in March 2010.
In 2007, labourers lynched a tea-estate owner in Golaghat district over non-payment of bonus.
Assam has around 800 tea estates and 65,000 smaller tea gardens that employ an estimated 30-lakh people both directly and indirectly. A majority of the workers are tribals whose forefathers were brought here from central India by the British over 170 years ago.