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Barla to meet CM

Siliguri, Dec. 23: A group of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supporters led by John Barla would meet Mamata Banerjee in Jalpaiguri’s Nagrakata on Friday in an attempt to get the chief minister’s seal for an alliance in the panchayat elections.

The JMM has been in talks with north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb for a panchayat poll alliance between the ruling party in the state and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and Barla’s party.

Trinamul leaders in the Dooars, where the party lacks a widespread base, said the decision on the alliance with the JMM and Morcha, if spelt out by Mamata would largely help them in the panchayat poll campaign.

“The initial move has been made by Gautam Deb (on the alliance). What we now need is the final seal. This would help us as well as the JMM and the Morcha who will work at the grassroots for the panchayat polls,” a Trinamul leader said.

Although chief minister Mamata’s visit is planned around government work, Barla said: “The minister (Deb) has agreed to allow us time so that we can meet the chief minister and articulate our demands.”

The demands Barla spoke about were of the tea industry in Dooars. Barla and his team will present Mamata a list of 10 demands.

“We have consulted among ourselves and met the Trinamul leaders and the north Bengal development minister and expressed our willingness to attend the government event in Nagrakata, where the chief minister would be present,” Barla said.

“Tea workers under the banner of the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union will attend the meeting. We have passed the message to each tea garden in the Dooars. People in large numbers will be present at the event from the brew belt,” Barla said after meeting Deb in his Siliguri office today.

“Our key demands are for land rights to tea workers, the forming of a separate department for tea in the state government, the reopening of closed tea estates and the creation of a wage board to fix wages of tea workers,” he said.