Reported By: Sukanya Chatterjee, Manager Programmes, Kolkata
Jalpaiguri,West Bengal: The Red Bank Tea Estate has been closed for more than 10 years. The tea garden workers living in the lines face tremendous hardships in eking out a living. Periodic work under MGNREGA helps supplement their meagre income. Inhabitants of Salboni & Surendernagar closed tea gardens are mostly illiterate and thereby in most cases they are unaware about their entitlement rights. A large number of workers do not have job cards, an essential prerequisite to applying for work under MGNREGA.
Several vested interest groups have begun charging Rs. 3000 for each job card.
Our partner organisation DAMRI learnt of a Lok Adalat (Public Hearing) and facilitated discussion among card less workers. Initially these workers were reluctant about sharing their case as they were afraid of the consequences by the vested interest groups. Counselling by DAMRI encouraged them to participate in the Lok Adalat on 15th May 2016. Their plea did not fall on deaf ears and an immediate order was given by the Block Development Officer (BDO) to the Gram Panchayat for action. On 16th May 2016, 10 workers from Shalboni and Surendra Nagar lines submitted their applications for Job Card. All of them received their cards by June and are getting work under MGNERGA.