The process of clearing a tea garden was underway in Assam’s Cachar district on Friday for setting up a greenfield airport amid protests.
More than a hundred excavators were clearing the plantation of Doloo Tea Estate in Lalbagh division since Thursday, officials said.
A huge contingent of police was deployed at the spot with the garden area cordoned off, they said.
A flag march was conducted in the area before the land clearing process started, police said, adding that no untoward incident has so far been reported.
The process of acquiring the land for the airport project is being done as per the memorandum signed by the stakeholders concerned, superintendent of police Ramandeep Kaur said.
“If any person or group has any grievance, then it should be addressed through proper channels and they should not create a law and order situation here,” she said.
The tea garden workers have been protesting the acquisition, stating that they fear loss of livelihood.
The State Government has announced a compensation of Rs 50 crore for the acquisition of the land at Doloo and Mainagarh tea gardens and has already released Rs 2.37 crore as the first installment, officials said.
The Doloo tea garden said it has already deposited Rs 1.57 crore in the workers’ Provident Fund (PF) account. The gratuity cheques were handed to the garden workers at a function on Monday.
BJP’s Silchar MP Rajdeep Roy said, “I would like to reiterate that the government is committed to the welfare of the tea workers as well as the industry and we are looking forward to an early settlement to the grievances.”
TMC’s Rajya Sabha MP Sushmita Dev claimed that the administration has completely mishandled the situation.
“We want the airport but the way the land acquisition and eviction began, it is problematic. The administration is insensitive and we demand proper compensation and rehabilitation for the workers,” she said.
State Congress president Bhupen Bora accused chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma of not considering the plight of the workers but acting in the interest of a few industrialists.
He demanded that the eviction drive be immediately stopped as it was “undemocratic and reflected the anti-labour policies of the government”.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in March between Doloo Tea Company Pvt Ltd and various trade unions to protect the jobs of the tea garden workers.
Around 2,500 bighas of land will be provided by the tea estate for construction of the airport.