Siliguri, Aug. 17: Intuc and Congress leaders working in the tea belts of north Bengal today termed the chief minister’s announcement of providing houses to tea workers a gimmick and said it was made only to secure votes in the coming panchayat polls.
Representatives of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad have also expressed reservations and have made it clear that the issue cannot be resolved unless workers are given land rights.
Yesterday, during a media briefing at Writers’ Buildings, Mamata had said the state government planned to build houses for garden workers through state and central schemes such as the Indira Awas Yojana, Gitanjali and Amar Bari.
The 100 days’ work scheme would be implemented in the gardens for benefit of the workforce who in due course, will also get electricity at lower cost, she said.
“We perceive it as an announcement made ahead of the panchayat polls as the Trinamul, which lacks a base in tea belt, is desperate to garner support and win seats in the panchayats,” said Prabhat Mukherjee, a senior Intuc leader of Jalpaiguri.
“If the government is genuinely interested in addressing the issue, it should have simultaneously announced that the workers would be given land rights because even if the government goes ahead and builds homes, the workers would have no rights to them.”
Tea workers, numbering over three lakhs, have repeatedly raised the issue of land rights in the gardens.
As garden land is provided on lease to planters and tea companies and workers reside on a portion of it, they do not enjoy any land rights.
“The issue can be addressed only by amendment of the Plantation Labour Act or by resuming the unused land which can then be distributed to workers with secured land tenures or documents providing land rights. The erstwhile Left Front government and present government have received several memoranda from us and other forums, but till date nothing has been done,” the Intuc leader said.
“By making an announcement, without giving the relevant details, the problem cannot be resolved.”
Rajesh Lakra, general secretary of the Dooars Terai unit of the Parishad, said: “We would have appreciated if the chief minister would have announced that land rights would be given to us. Instead, she announced houses for us. Such announcements only add to the general confusion as we are aware that even if houses are built on the land provided on lease to tea companies, we can never get land rights.”