Goenka wanted some time to reply to the CID’s questions. “As such, we have decided to grant him some more time. We might question him when he is ready with the details we have sought,” said a top level officer regarding the Bagrakote Tea Garden in Jalpaiguri Estate.
Goenka, himself, refused to comment on his interaction at Bhawani Bhawan. Sources said that Goenka – who had promised to meet investigators once he reached Kolkata – came to the CID headquarters a few minutes past 11 am and left in an hour. General manager (legal) Subir Mukherjee accompanied him.
CID officials wanted to know the reasons that had led to the non-payment of workers after October 17. The company though said in a statement that “all current dues have been cleared and there is nothing outstanding in this account.” They also wanted to know the compelling reasons that allegedly led to the company stopping rationing facilities for over several weeks even though the executives continued to receive proper salaries.
The CID team said that Goenka was “polite and fully cooperated” all through the interaction. Sources said the new papers sought from Goenka include the terms and conditions under which employees are recruited, their retirement age and retirement benefits and the accounts of the money in the past six months.
CID officials say that they have now asked for some specific documents from the company in this regard and it is likely that they would press for the same. Senior officers though did not wish to set a deadline to the probe.
Sources close to the tea major though said they were in touch with the heads of the administration and “minor hitches” in reaching a solution will soon be removed. “They have asked for supporting documents which we are preparing. We are hoping to remove the misunderstanding will end very soon,” said a confident company official.
According to CID sources, the investigating agency wishes to audit the accounts of the group of the past six months. “We are looking for leads. We hope we can get once we examine the documents. However, our probe is limited only to the non-payment of dues and does not cover any other aspect as of now,” explained a senior officer. He said that not until they go through these documents will they insist on questioning owner G P Goenka or his son. “We will follow the proper rules and procedures,” explained one investigating officer.
In September this year, a NGO and activists’ group – Right to Food and Work Campaign (RFWC)- had submitted a report to chief minister Mamata Banerjee claiming that the closed and abandoned tea estates of the company could trigger a major humanitarian crisis with a population of over 75,000 dependent of the tea gardens “forced to live in near starvation”. The CID has categorically stated the document is not part of its evidence.