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The Supreme Court was today informed that the Centre and four tea-growing states have failed to respond to notices issued by it over alleged starvation deaths by workers of tea gardens illegally abandoned by companies. The court was informed that only Assam, Karnataka, Uttaranchal, West Bengal and UPASI Tea Research Foundation and Tea Board have filed their reply to the notices issued 18 months ago. Four other states -- Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh have not yet responded to the notices issued on August 2006. The Court was informed that several of the companies which were given lease of the tea gardens have abandon the business without paying the dues of the workers. Following which the Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran said like the state governments, the tea companies could also be impleaded as parties in the matter. The petition filed by International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, Plantation and Allied Workers' Association (IUF) has contended that the authorities are bound under the law to protect the interest of the workers and recover their dues. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners, which included workers unions from the tea industry, alleged that around Rs 4,000 crore was to be paid to the workers as wages for the last eight years. The PIL has said that as a result of the non-payment of earned wages, provident fund and statutory dues such as gratuity, closure and retrenchment compensation, the situation of starvation, destitution and despair has spread in the tea gardens of the country. The Court was informed that several of the companies which were given lease of the tea gardens have abandon the business without paying the dues of the workers. Following which the Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran said like the state governments, the tea companies could be impleaded as parties in the matter.
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