Demanding Reopening of Closed and Sick Tea Gardens

Successful Bandh in North Bengal

C PI(ML)-COC(ML) jointly called North Bengal Bandh on 7 January on the demands of reopening the closed and sick tea gardens in Dooars and immediate relief to the tea-workers. The bundh was a grand success.

Maximum impact of the Bandh was felt in Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, where offices, courts, markets, shops, schools and colleges remained completely closed and buses and other public transport came to standstill. Work in the tea gardens of Karlaveli, Denguajhar and Raipur was completely stopped.

AICCTU State Secretary Comrade Basudev Bose, Party’s Jalpaiguri District Secretary Comrade Shankar Das and other 10 persons were arrested by the police while picketing. The police also resorted to lathicharge on the picketers. In Darjeeling, a joint procession of our Party and Kanu Sanyal’s COC(ML) was attacked by the police resulting in arrest of 45 persons including Party’s Darjeeling District Secretary Comrade Abhijit Majumdar and another leader Muzammel Haq. In Hathighisha, 150 workers belonging to Kanu Sanyal’s COC(ML) were arrested. Road was blocked at Hashmichke. In Raiganj, Party activists led by Comrade Ajit Das took out a procession to ensure success of the Bandh.

On this day, activists of CPI(ML) and its mass organisations, viz., AICCTU, RYA, AISA and AIPWA, launched a drive to support the Bandh and collect relief for tea-workers in Kolkata and elsewhere.

In Dooars area of Jalpaiguri, 20 out of 150 tea gardens have been closed down. As a consequence, more than 20,000 workers, employees and their families are suffering immensely. Hundreds of people have already died of starvation and disease, without any access to treatment. Tea garden authorities and the government have not taken any measure to supply even potable water to them, not to mention life saving drugs. No relief measures have been taken up by a so-called “pro-labour” LF Government. The protestors asked: Why does it not arrest the owners of the closed tea gardens who have embezzled crores of rupees of arrears and PF of tea workers? One after another tea estate, including Chandmoni, have been grabbed by promoters, but the government has taken no measures to prevent it.

The protestors also raised questions about why the North Bengal Development Council, headed by the Chief Minister, was doing nothing to ameliorate the plight of the tea workers. Why did the government not nationalise the closed and sick tea gardens? The protestors also demanded that all the tea workers of closed tea gardens be given an allowance of Rs.1000 per month.

In case the government does not take measures at war footing to fulfil the demands raised in the interests of tea workers, the protestors warned that the movement will be further intensified. And then the fire would not remain confined to Dooars or Terai, it would engulf the whole of West Bengal.