Now, aviation ministry tells Assam to submit 'application' for airport in Cachar

Guwahati: As the impasse in Doloo Tea Estate in Assam’s Cachar district continues, an infamous group called “Friends of Doloo” has launched a Twitter campaign for the protection of labour rights and tea plantation of the tea garden, where an eviction drive has been carried out by the Assam government for setting up of a greenfield airport.

The Twitter campaign was launched to raise their voice against the uprooting of 3 million tea plants and thousands of sheds of Doloo Tea Estate for the construction of a greenfield airport in Silchar in the Cachar district.

In its appeal to the people, the ‘Friend of Doloo’ writes: “On June 5, World Environment Day, we call upon all environmentally conscious people to unitedly raise their voice against this destruction in the name of the development. We take to the streets with our posters and tell them that we are not in favour of this destruction.”

On the other hand, leaders of the Doloo Cha Bagan Bachao Samanway Samitee have failed to stage a protest in front of the office of the Cachar deputy commissioner due to the heavy presence of police and paramilitary forces on Sunday.

The organisation will stage a mass protest in Silchar on June 15, where more than 2,000 tea workers and leaders of political and non-political organisations will take part.

Doloo Tea Estate is the largest tea estate in South Assam and it produces 2.4 million kgs of black CTC tea. The tea garden road has been made into a 4 lane National Highway by the National Highway Authority Of India (NHAI).

“Doloo is a large tea garden in the Cachar district. Of the four divisions of the tea estate, the Mayanagarh and Lalbagh divisions spread over 2,500 bighas of land. There are 3 million yielding tea bushes and thousands of shed trees. About 2,500 tea labourers work in these two divisions to earn their daily bread,” the appeal letter said. 

On March 7, an agreement was signed between the Doloo Tea Company Ltd and three labour unions of Doloo Tea Estate, CITU, BMS and INTUC in the presence of the district magistrate and assistant labour commissioner of Cachar for handing over 2,500 bighas of land to the government for construction of a greenfield airport.

“It is alleged that none of the labour units had discussed it with the affected workers before signing the agreement. It is also a mystery that Doloo Tea Estate was chosen by chopping down the yielding tea bushes, compensating the owner, despite having abundant land nearby,” the letter said.

The workers started agitation as soon as they heard about the agreement. The movement started under the leadership of the Assam Majuri Shramik Union.

“Under pressure, the administration held a public hearing as demanded by the workers on April 29 and May 2 during which the workers put forward their objections. A total of 2,328 workers signed their objection letter and submitted to the district administration,” it said.

“While the agitation process was going on, the district administration suddenly issued an eviction notice on May 11 and imposed Section 144 of CrPC blocking the entire Doloo area,” it also said

“On May 12, the horrific incident of uprooting trees with bulldozers began. The workers ignored Section 144 and rushed to save their plantation for one last time.

They pleaded in front of the police and the administration and cried not to bulldoze the plantation, saying that these tea bushes have been there since the time of their ancestors,” it further said.

“But the administration did not listen to their plea and forcibly destroyed the garden.

The protest continued till the day. The government did not bring the EIA and SIA audit reports into the public domain as well, which was necessary before destroying 30 lakh tea bushes. There is also no information that the Central government has given any approval for the construction of a green field airport in the land,” it added..

In such a situation, the state government announced that it will compensate the workers. But no guarantee of jobs has been promised.

Since May 12, no one has been allowed to enter the tea garden. 

“This will be the beginning of a series of protests, and on June 15 we will organise a rally to increase public support against the uprooting of 3 million tea bushes,” Dr Tapodhir Bhattacharjee and Sanjit Roy of Doloo Cha Bagan Bachao Samanway Samitee, said.

“Without any ‘site clearance’ and ‘in principle approval’ from the central government, the state government has cleared 2,500 bighas of land of Dolu, a functional tea garden in Cachar district, to make way for a new airport,” they added.

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