Jalpaiguri, Nov. 7: Still reeling from the body blow dealt to an industry on the downswing, planters today reiterated that merit would be the main criteria for recruitment in the gardens even as unions blamed the government for allowing Citu — the labour arm of the CPM — to have a free run in the estates.
Secretary of the Indian Tea Planters’ Association R.K. Maheshwari said they were willing to consider the demand that “sons-of-the-soil” be given preference while handing out jobs, but merit was the most important factor. “We believe that competency and the merit of the candidate are two factors that should be taken into account. There is always a demand from the sons of the soil but we must consider the facts necessary for recruitment. We do not think that the incident would affect recruitment from outside,” he said.
Concurred Prabir Bhattacharya, the secretary of the Dooars branch of the Indian Tea Association. “The recruitment made from outside is on the basis of merit. The incident will obviously affect the ailing industry.”
Maheshwari blamed a section of union leaders for allowing the resentment to build up among labourers. “Of late, some leaders are forming committees and selling off tea leaves once a garden has closed, leaving the labourers in the lurch,” he said.
Union leaders said Citu was to blame. The convener of the Defence Committee of Plantation Workers’ Rights demanded a CBI probe. The West Bengal Cha Sramik Union blamed the government for not paying heed to warnings of “simmering tension”.