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‘Expansion of Silchar airport a priority’
Staff Correspondent
 SILCHAR, Dec 23 - At a time when there is a lot of buzz over the allocation of land by the government for the expansion of the Silchar Airport at Kumbhirgram, the Akhil Bharatiya Chah Mazdoor Sangha and the Cachar district administration have made their stance clear on the issue.

 While cadres of the Mazdoor Sangha, affiliated to Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has said that the expansion should not hamper the interest of the labourers of Kumbhirgram and Scottpur Tea Gardens, the Cachar district administration is maintaining a view to expedite the allocation of 316.5 acres of land to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for the expansion of the airport.

Expressing concerns on the rehabilitation of the tea workers of both the gardens owing to the land acquisition, Chunilal Bhattacharjee, president of the Mazdoor Sangha has urged upon Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to look into the matter saying “neither the forum nor the workers are against the development of the airport. But the development should not come by victimising the labourers sans alternative arrangements. The garden workers should be kept in the scheme of things.”

In a memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister, Bhattacharjee has underlined the demands for equal wages for tea labourers of Barak and Brahmaputra valleys, wages on weekly holidays and immediate fixation of minimum wages for the labourers. In addition, the forum has also demanded that the money under Provident Fund and Gratuity should be paid on time after the retirement of concerned employees to comply with the provisions of Plantation Labour Act 1951.

On the on the other hand, Cachar Deputy Commissioner Dr S Laxmanan has brushed aside the speculations of relocating the airport to a new venue saying “since the airport cannot be relocated to a new place, the government will provide legitimate compensation for the land acquisition to the management of respective tea gardens as per rules. The Kumbhirgram and Scottpur Tea garden authorities shall have to decide the best possible ways to make use of the compensation. The labourers must not panic because of a misplaced doubt; they need not lose their jobs. However, expansion of the existing airport remains a foremost priority.”

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