The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Cinchona strike exposes split

Darjeeling, March 27: Simmering tension gripped Darjeeling today after the GNLF plastered posters across the town announcing that the 'hills will remain open' tomorrow.

The United Forum ' an umbrella organisation of Opposition trade unions 'has called a 12-hour strike in the district tomorrow to protest against the government's alleged lack of sincerity in solving the cinchona plantation's problems.

Many believe that the plantation, which is reeling from an annual loss of Rs 28 crore, cannot sustain itself. Though all the operative trade unions in the plantation, including the Himalayan Plantation Workers' Union (HPWU) ' an affiliate of the GNLF ' want greater initiative from the state government, the unions have failed to show unity.

'We do not believe in the strike as it should be used only as a last resort. After many attempts we were finally able to bring the government to the negotiation table. At a time, when negotiations have just started, we do not think it is right to call a strike. We cannot support an agitation that is aimed at deriving political mileage,' said N.B. Chhetri, president, HPWU (cinchona unit). The cinchona meet was held in Calcutta on March 1 and was attended by representatives of all the hill trade unions.

Though the GNLF has justified its decision about not supporting tomorrow's strike, the hills have been thrown into uncertainty following the party's determination to keep shops and schools open.

The Opposition, on the other hand, is ready to go ahead with its plans. 'The state government is to be blamed for our predicament and we will protest against it,' said D.S. Bomzom, the spokesperson for the CPRM.

The CPRM and the ABGL ' members of the Opposition ' and the All Gorkha Students' Union have decided to support the strike, which has raised fears of skirmishes.

The GNLF leaders on the other hand were seen doing the rounds of the town today, requesting shopkeepers to keep the shutters open. Subash Ghisingh's party is confident that the strike will not be a success but observers feel that given the prevailing tension, many people will not risk coming out into the streets. The tea gardens are, however, expected to remain open.

Email This Page