The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strike ritual in tea hub riddled with crises

Jalpaiguri, Aug. 11: A loss of Rs 2 crore notwithstanding, tea workers across the Dooars and Terai struck work today and crippled an industry that is gasping for survival.

Secretary of the Dooars Branch of Indian Tea Association Prabir Bhattacharya said while planters were set back by Rs 4 crore, the labourers would lose around half that amount because of the day-long protest. “It would have been better had the Coordination Committee of Plantation Workers restrained itself from going ahead with the month-long agitation and the 24-hour shutdown. We requested them to withdraw the strike but they were adamant,” he said.

The coordination committee is demanding revision of wages, regularisation of rations, provident funds and basic amenities for tea garden labourers in north Bengal. Committee convener Chitta Dey said they had no alternative but to go ahead with the strike to “stop the continuous deterioration in the condition of the labourers”. “We appealed to the government a number of times but it did not pay any heed to our demands. It is time that the government and the planters gave a serious thought to the condition of the labourers,” Dey added.

Since early morning, labourers of over 260 gardens across the Dooars, Terai and even in pockets of the hills gathered in front of the estates and held demonstrations and meetings to press their demands. The estates in Darjeeling were unaffected by the strike. The impact was partial in Mirik and Kurseong.

Dey said the coordination committee, an apex body of 18 labour unions, would soon meet to “chalk out future strategy”.

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