Similar allegations have surfaced at remaining tea gardens in Kulaura upazila and the upazilas that surround it
A faction of tea workers’ leaders has allegedly raked in large sums of money from several thousand unsuspecting poor tea workers of 19 tea gardens under Kulaura upazila in Moulvibazar.
Tea workers have alleged that they are made to pay an amount ranging from Tk200 to Tk1,000 to their panchayat committee leaders so that their names may be enlisted for the annual financial grant of Tk5,000 from the government's social services department.
The workers have also accused the leaders of indulging in favouritism and nepotism in preparing the grant recipients' list every year.
Some people keep receiving the annual grant every year, while many deserving workers are left out of the list, alleged the tea workers.
When asked why they were collecting money for enlisting, the leaders said it was to cover various expenses, including transportation to and from the government offices, making duplicates of workers' photographs and photocopies of their ID cards, complained a number of tea workers.
Rani Bauri, a tea worker at Clevedon Tea Garden, said the tea workers should not be made to pay any fee as all tea workers had submitted photographs and photocopies of their ID cards to the leaders.
Suvash Gaur, a tea worker at the same tea garden, said Tea Garden Workers' Panchayat Committee President Mohan Lal Goala, its Treasurer Rambachan Goala, and committee members Bikash Mudi, Susan Urang and Mukul Chandra Bunarji had been collecting at least Tk500 from each worker, with the assurance that the payment would ensure their names on the grant list.
Another tea worker, Bijoy Gaur, said the president of the committee always came up with different excuses every year to collect money from the workers and if anyone refused to comply, he threatened him with a removal of his name from the list.
Asked about the allegations, President Mohan Lal Goala admitted collecting money for various expenses, such as making duplicates of photos and ID cards of the workers, travelling to government offices and preparing the "master roll".
He, however, claimed to have collected an insignificant amount of money, between Tk100 and Tk120, from each worker.
Similar allegations have surfaced in the remaining tea gardens in Kulaura upazila and the upazilas adjoining it.
Contacted, Kulaura Upazila Nirbahi Officer ATM Farhad Chowdhury said government grants had to be disbursed free of charge among the poor workers.
After receiving complaints of irregularities in the process of a preparation of lists of recipients, he held a meeting this Sunday (July 5) with panchayat committee leaders of 19 tea gardens in the upazila, managers of the tea gardens and chairmen and members of union councils in the upazila.
The social services officer in the upazila has been instructed to investigate the allegations at Clevedon and other tea gardens and take stern lawful action against anyone found involved in financial transactions during the process of enlistment for disbursement of the grant.
He also said that at the meeting he warned all concerned to return all the money that had been collected illegally from the workers. Otherwise, the persons responsible would face strict action from the administration.