Little cheer at tea meet

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By OUR BUREAU in Siliguri
  • Published 1.02.07
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Siliguri, Feb. 1: A huge turnout of labourers at the State Tea Garden and Forest Village Folk Cultural Festival yesterday must have pleased chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, but it could barely paper over the crisis in the brew industry.

“We came here yesterday hoping that the chief minister would declare some schemes for our benefit,” said a worker of Ramjhora tea estate. “But there was nothing new in his speech.”

Then there was the thronging crowd at the Tea Board’s stall offering free cups of tea. Board officials put it down to the success of their campaign to encourage tea consumption, but the truth was completely different. “The factory is closed and we cannot afford to buy tea for daily consumption,” said Budhuram Baraik, a worker of Kanthalguri estate, sipping a hot cuppa.

The food stalls opened by local self-helps groups (SHGs), on the other hand, were deserted. “Sales were abysmal,” said Kalpana Sarkar of Kusum, an SHG. She said the garden labourers did not have enough money to buy boiled egg, ghugni and payesh.

There were other indications of the workers’ plight (see chart). The only shadow of hope came from the district magistrate, R. Ranjit. “The chief minister has instructed us to take up the problems faced by the labourers and solve them,” he said.

Buddha pledge

The chief minister announced in Holong, Jaldapara, this morning that the first ever wildlife hospital and research centre in the state would be set up at Madarihat, 54 km from Alipurduar. Later, at a rally organised by Brahmaputra Jalpath Dabi Samiti at Baxirhat, Cooch Behar, he said he has talked to the Prime Minister about reviving the waterway between Bengal and Assam via Bangladesh and Myanmar. Bhattacharjee also inaugurated the Teesta Ganga festival at Dewanhaat and, at a programme at Uttar Banga Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, termed the Seed Corporation “useless”.