A hill tea garden: Fund source
Darjeeling, Sept. 8: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s trade union has started collecting a day’s wage from tea garden workers across the Darjeeling hills to raise a fund for the Gorkhaland agitation.
The hills have 87 tea gardens and they together employ 65,000 workers, most of whom are members of the Morcha-affiliated Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union. The daily wage of a worker is Rs 90.
The union is expected to raise around Rs 60 lakh.
Bimal Gurung, the president of the Morcha, while receiving 1,400kg of rice and Rs 50,000 collected by the outfit’s Darjeeling Sadar-1 constituency unit, today said: “We are grateful to everyone as our people are voluntarily contributing both in cash and kind. I have been told that tea garden workers will also be donating a day’s wage and that our trade union has already passed a resolution to help in the collection.”
Rs 50,000 has been collected by a Darjeeling unit of the Morcha. It has not been collected from tea garden workers.
Suraj Subba, the general secretary of the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, said the workers were voluntarily contributing wages. “Workers are voluntarily coming and donating their wages to our local units. There is no call for a fund collection. Our union is just co-ordinating the collection,” he said.
This is the first time that the Morcha is collecting funds from the people. The GNLF in 1986 had collected such funds from people during its Gorkhaland agitation days.
Sources in the Morcha said apart from the Darjeeling Sadar-I unit of the Morcha, other constituencies were also expected to collect funds and rice from the common people. Students are also collecting donations in cuss jars for the statehood agitation, though on a small scale.
The collection is likely to cover even the cinchona plantation workers, whose daily wage is Rs 183. The cinchona plantations employ around 5,000 people. Both the cinchona and tea plantations were kept out of the agitation’s purview.
The collections are going on at a time the state government is purportedly tightening its noose around people who are perceived to be financing the Morcha.
Police sources said a businessman, Ashoke Periwal, had been arrested from Kalimpong last night for showing a black flag to north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb on February 12 and for allegedly vandalising a police outpost. The sources said the police were keeping a watch over Periwal for allegedly funding the Morcha.
Periwal’s lawyer said he was arrested in Siliguri, not Kalimpong.
Petition in SC
Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, said that the organisation had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the August 14 high court order, terming the ghar bhitra janata (stay-at home) programme illegal.