Adivasi tea union joins poll fray

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  • Published 19.03.10

Jaigaon/Siliguri, March 18: The recognition of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad’s trade union has left political parties wondering about its impact on the Dooars and the Terai tea belts during elections.

The RSP MP from Alipurduar and the general secretary of the Utuc-affiliated Dooars Cha Bagan Workers’ Union, Monohar Tirkey, said some workers might switch loyalty and join the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union. “There can be division of votes in the election as tribals form a substantial portion of the vote bank in the Assembly constituencies in the region.”

The Dooars and the Terai have 230 gardens with a workforce of 2.5 lakh. Of them, 60 per cent are tribals. With the setting up of the PTWU, the tribal workers, who are now either with the Citu, Intuc or the Utuc, may shift their allegiance.

The brew belt comprises eight Assembly constituencies. About 70 per cent of the 230 estates are run either by the Citu or by the Intuc. Political observers feel that the recognition to the PTWU will definitely affect the Assembly polls results as majority of the tribals is with the Parishad.

The Congress leadership in Jalpaiguri is, however, of the view that election results have nothing to do with the strength of a trade union. “Initially, some workers may get enrolled with the Parishad union as its leaders have assured them that they will solve all problems at one go,” said Biswaranjan Sarkar, the party’s district president. “However, it is unlikely that people will vote for a candidate who speaks for a particular community and not for political parties.”

Manik Sanyal, the Jalpaiguri district CPM secretary, apprehended violence in gardens following the recognition. “Considering the Parishad’s work only for their own community, we fear violence,” he said.

The general secretary of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers, Prabhat Mukherjee, said the pressure was not on them but on the Parishad. “There are around 25 trade unions in the brew belt and another union has been added to the list. We have nothing to worry.”

Parishad leaders said their first movement would be to demand a hike in daily wages from Rs 60 to Rs 250.