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Tea bonus installment to be paid by Dec 22

For the first time in recent memory, the hill tea workers did not get their bonus before Puja

By Vivek Chhetri in Darjeeling
  • Published 9.11.19, 3:32 AM
  • Updated 9.11.19, 3:32 AM
  • a min read
Tinchuley tea garden in Darjeeling. The Telegraph file picture

The Darjeeling Tea industry has agreed to pay by December 22 the remaining 8 per cent of the 20 per cent bonus it had agreed to last month.

“It has been agreed that the remaining bonus will be disbursed by December 22 this year. Our stand was that we cannot clear the bonus before March next year. However, the date has been ultimately fixed,” a source in the management said.

For the first time in recent memory, the hill tea workers did not get their bonus before Puja — which used to be an unwritten norm in the Darjeeling Tea Industry. The delay was largely because the management had refused to pay bonus at 20 per cent, as demanded by the hill unions. Even after the state government intervened, the bonus issue could not be settled.

The logjam that followed saw Binay Tamang, who leads his faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, launch an indefinite hunger strike in Darjeeling during Puja. That prompted a meeting to be called on October 11 after six days of Tamang’s fast.

At this meeting, it was decided that the bonus would be paid at 20 per cent of a worker’s annual earnings, in instalments of 12 per cent and 8 per cent.

While the first installment was to be paid immediately, the date for disbursement of the second was to be decided at a meeting in November.

“During chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit to Kurseong from October 22 to 24, our party president Binay Tamang had highlighted the bonus issue. This is why the meeting was called today (Friday),” said Bharat Thakuri, general secretary of Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, the trade wing of Morcha (Binay) camp.

Friday’s meeting was held in Calcutta and attended by ministers Moloy Ghatak and Aroop Biswas, besides Tamang. The Morcha leader has been nominated to a state government tea advisory board along with union leaders of hill parties.

Thakuri said the union’s stand was that the remaining installment had to be paid before Christmas. The Darjeeling Tea Association had earlier said it could not pay a 20 per cent bonus, citing a slump of 22 per cent in exports last year and a 50 per cent fall in production in the past two decades.