Darjeeling, 27th September: Darjeeling MP Raju Bista actively took part in the protest rally called by the Joint Forum of Tea Garden Associations against the discriminatory bonus distribution decree issued by the West Bengal Government. He was accompanied by Darjeeling MLA Neeraj Zimba.
The MP accused the Trinamool Congress-led state government of discriminating against the tea garden workers from the hills over the past 11 years. He further alleged that while the TMC government has allowed the tea planters to divert 15% of the land for tea for 'tea tourism' purposes, they have kept the tea garden workers, who live in less than 5% of the tea garden land for generations, deprived of their Parja Patta land rights.
In his press release, MP Bista wrote:
Today I extended my support and solidarity to the protest organised by the Joint Forum of Tea Garden Associations against the discriminatory bonus distribution decree issued by the WB Govt. The absolute lack empathy and understanding exhibited by the WB Govt towards the plight of the workers from the tea gardens of Darjeeling region is appalling.
The TMC Govt has refused to implement the Minimum Wages Act in the tea industry, thereby turning the tea garden workers from North Bengal into the lowest paid industrial workers in the country. Because of which the tea garden workers from our region are highly dependent on the annual bonus for celebrations of Dashain and Tihar.
While the Tea Planters in Siliguri, Terai region agreed to 20% bonus in one instalment in early September, but for the hills the WB Govt issued a decree recently stating that the puja bonus would be given in two instalments of 15% and 5%.
This is an outright illegal and discriminatory attitude towards the hill tea workers, done with the intention of humiliating and harassing them. Thankfully some of the tea companies are defying this decree, and are paying the workers 20% bonus in one go.
In the past 11-years, the TMC Govt has time and again shown discrimination against the tea garden workers from our region. While the TMC Govt has allowed the tea planters to divert 15% of the land for tea for the so called 'tea tourism' purposes, they have kept the tea garden workers, who live in less than 5% of the tea garden land for generations, deprived of their Parja Patta land rights.
Further, the TMC Govt in the state has refused to implement the New Labour Codes passed by the Parliament of India in 2019 and 2020, these new labour laws were designed to protect the rights of the workers, provide them with a fair and equitable wages, and provide for a higher standard of living and social security benefits.
Today the entire Darjeeling region has decided to take a stand against this discrimination. All the tea stakeholders, including the WB Govt, planters, and others should realise that we cannot produce good tea by making the workers suffer for basic needs. To revive the Darjeeling tea industry, we need to work for reviving the socio-economic health of the workers first, rest will follow.