The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Panel plan for jobless tea workers

Calcutta, Aug. 4: The Left Front today decided to ask the government to set up an expert panel to look into the plight of out-of-job tea workers in north Bengal.

Led by industry minister Nirupam Sen, the proposed committee will comprise trade union representatives and tea experts.

The issue came up today at the front meeting at the CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street after several minor constituents expressed grievances.

RSP state secretary Debabrata Banerjee told front leaders that a joint survey conducted by the unions and an NGO had revealed that about 400 employees of closed tea gardens had died of starvation.

About 40 tea gardens had faced closure a few years ago. Of these, 19 are still shut. Though the others are functioning, their workers are not getting salaries on time, Banerjee said. He then demanded the state’s intervention.

The RSP has been aggrieved with the CPM and its trade union wing, Citu, for allowing construction of a housing estate on land belonging to the closed Chandmoni Tea Estate near Siliguri.

Though the RSP did not bring up Chandmoni today, the party’s vocal championing of the tea workers’ cause forced the front leadership to set up the committee. The leaders had initially decided to set up a panel of senior government officials but the CPI and the RSP demanded an expert committee.

The front also decided to observe August 15 as anti-imperialism and anti-communal day. The ruling coalition and the CPM will virtually launch their election campaign that day by opposing the BJP-led Centre’s economic policy. “Lok Sabha elections are not very far. Naturally, we have to prepare ourselves to face the elections,” front chairman Biman Bose said.

On Independence Day, the front will organise a convention at the CPM’s Calcutta district committee office to register its protest against the Centre’s “pro-imperialism and communal” attitude.

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