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Greenfield International Airport in Dolu: Tea garden workers stage protest against constructions "Respect the blood and sweat of our forefathers," they urge

Building of a Greenfield International Airport has been in the talk for a very long period now. The site chosen is 873 acres of Dolu Tea Estate. The government has estimated to pay the sum of Rupees 50 crore to the owner on behalf of the said land. According to news sources, the owner has agreed to this deal. This means hundreds of tea garden labourers will be uprooted from their home and tea garden where they’ve been working since the last hundreds of years and since many generations.

On Sunday, under the leadership of the Assam Tea Tribe Student Association (ATSA), a protest meeting was called at the Lalbagh Tea Estate, near Dolu. The said protest was chaired by the union’s central working committee’s member, Subir Karmakar among other members of the Cachar District Committee. Speaking with the media, Karmakar said, “There can be nothing as sad as destroying a well built and maintained tea plantation and that too when the area is 873 acres. In making this tea estate our forefathers have laid their lives, blood and sweat. The land and money might belong to the owner, but the hard work is of our fathers and grandfathers. Our only source of income is what the labourers get in return for their everyday’s hard work. If the plants are destroyed, how will they earn. It is not just about five or ten families. The owner and managing committee are giving us assurances and commitments, but these are all propaganda. We request the Deputy Commissioner to intervene and discuss the matter not just with the ownership, but the labour organisation and the ATSA and must consider our issue as well.”

The other members present in the dias have pointed out various problems when it comes to uprooting the tea plants from these tea plantations and building the airport. According to a speaker at the protest meeting, “there are more than fifteen thousand labourers in these four tea plantations where the airport is projected to be built and if you consider even one child per family, then there are over thirty thousand people depending on these four tea plantations. Our only source of income is this and it is a question of our lives. Our forefathers and all our lives we gave to the tea plantation and is it possible for us to find new avenues for income if this garden and our homes are destroyed? The government has not consider our ground for once.”

The greenfield airport is important but what is the justification of ruining a tea plantation of four tea gardens and a huge area of 873 acres of tea plantation which is the heritage and pride of Assam? The ATSA alleges that the government is trying to destroy them, their homes along with the tea plantation and demands for withdrawal of this plan at the earliest or their protest would continue further.

For the record, there are many defunct tea gardens and related areas in Cachar, also there is government protected land where the airport can be built. Airport is a very protected area and areas near the airport suffer from noise pollution. The Association seeks help from the Chief Minister of Assam to reconsider this decision and if not the Association would be bound to start a mass protest across the tea gardens of Assam.

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