Silchar: The All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) has demanded that the Assam government begin the process of setting up its proposed greenfield airport in Cachar district’s Dolu tea estate after consulting the tea estate’s workers.

The AIUTUC feels a large section of the workers fear losing employment if the project is implemented. The organisation has also threatened to launch a democratic movement if its demand is not fulfilled.

Dolu falls under Udharbond assembly constituency, about 24 kms from Silchar town.

Several other organisations and groups, including Forum for Social Harmony and Bagan Bachao Committee, have also raised objections over the construction of the airport at Dolu.

Sources said workers of Dolu, Moynargarh and Lalbag tea gardens held a meeting over the issue in Moynargarh on Wednesday afternoon and expressed concern over the government’s move.

The workers claimed that a big portion of the airport site falls under the tea gardens’ plantation areas and that a large number of the tea workers would be unemployed if the airport is built there, the sources said.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the AIUTUC’s Cachar district committee demanded that the state government must ensure employment and other rights of the tea estate’s workers before going ahead with the project.

The AIUTUC said the tea estate workers are worried as they have not received any concrete assurance about their jobs from the government so far.

Assam Sramik Mazdoor Union’s Cachar district committee secretary Dharitri Sharma claimed in the meeting that the tea garden management had handed over the land for construction of the airport without informing the workers.

“More than 2,000 workers will lose their jobs if the project is materialised. Though the tea garden management has assured that it would provide alternate employment opportunities to the workers, it is never going to be possible,” Sharma said.

The Union’s Cachar district committee president Mrinal Kanti Shome alleged that the tea garden management had convinced the tea workers’ unions for their support by making “fake promises”. Any attempt to deprive the tea workers of their rights will not be tolerated, Shome added. 

On Tuesday, more than 1,000 workers of Dolu, Moynargarh and Lalbag tea gardens had gheraoed officials of the district administration, police, CRPF and the tea estate’s manager when they were visiting to measure the land for the airport.

The agitated tea workers said they had no problem with the construction of the airport, but it has to be done outside the tea estates’ premises. They made it clear that they would not let the project be implemented if it is not done as per their demand. The situation was later brought under control by the police.

The idea of the greenfield airport in Cachar district’s Dolu tea estate gained certainty on January 21, 2022 after Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma made an announcement at a programme at Silchar Medical College and Hospital.

A tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with Dolu tea company private limited, various trade unions representing the tea garden workers and the district administration at the Cachar deputy commissioner’s office in Silchar on March 7 in that regard.

Meanwhile, Silchar BJP MP Rajdeep Roy said a section of people with evil intent is trying to create unnecessary obstacles in the construction of the airport. “The government is making active efforts to take Barak Valley towards the path of progress and prosperity, but opposition parties along with some wicked people are conspiring and creating chaos for their vested interests,” he said.

He said that he had spoken to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia about the project and the minister assured him that necessary steps would be taken so that all the issues related to the implementation of the project are resolved, Roy said.

Former Congress minister and General Secretary of Barak Cha Sramik Union Ajit Singh told EastMojo on Thursday that the union is in favour of setting up of Greenfield Airport in Dolu tea estate, but no worker should be deprived of anything.

Silchar, the second biggest urban sprawl in Assam after Guwahati, presently has one airport in Udharbond constituency’s Kumbhirgram, about 29 km from this town. It was built by the British as a Royal Air Force (RAF) station in 1944 and later transferred to the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF).

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