Nainital Highcourt dismisses tea garden workers PIL
Nainital: Uttarakhand high court on Monday dismissed the Public Interest Litigation filed by tea garden workers in Dehradun, delivering a blow to the workers who fear loss of livelihood once their estates are taken over for the smart city project. The workers, along with an NGO, had filed the petition in the HC in Nainital on November 19. A bench comprising justices UC Dhyani and VK Bisht dismissed the petition.
Additional advocate general of Uttarakhand VBS Negi said, “The honourable court dismissed the petition on various grounds, saying it was premature. We assured the HC that guidelines of Union Ministry of Environment and Forests would be followed in the process of acquisition.”
The 150-year-old tea gardens are spread over 2,600 acres. The government had earlier proposed to take over 2,000 acres, but that area was reduced considerably, in the wake of public protests. Land belonging to three tea gardens – Arcadia Grant, Ambiwala and Hopetown – was set for acquisition. Uttarakhand had entered into an MoU with a Chinese organisation for the smart city.
After the protests erupted, on December 8, chief minister Harish Rawat asked housing secretary Meenakshi Sundaram to look for about 315 acres that could serve as a site for the smart city. The news was read as a silver lining of sorts, for it seemed to suggest that the government was looking for another site for the project.
Earlier, in the process of acquisition, the state government had tried to negotiate a ‘price’ with the companies of the three tea gardens. The money was supposed to be distributed among workers, who alleged that they were being forced to leave the land after they refused to accept the sum offered. The government has planned compensation to the owners of tea gardens and other landowners before starting the project.
This month, DTC India Private Limited which had sacked some 59 temporary workers from Arcadia Grant and Harbanswala tea gardens of Dehradun on November 3, announced that the workers would all be reinstated. However, all workers who had attained the age of 63, the announcement said, would have to retire. Around 40 of the expelled workers were 63 or older. Even many workers in the permanent category are in this age bracket. Workers were incensed by this move, and were considering move to oppose the retirement clause