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Ajoy Edwards ends tea garden hunger strike

Hamro party leader and his wife had joined the stir in support of the workers of Kanchan View estate
Hamro Party chief Edwards with supporters after ending his fast on Monday.
Hamro Party chief Edwards with supporters after ending his fast on Monday.
Telegraph photo

Vivek Chhetri   |   Darjeeling   |   Published 19.04.22, 01:27 AM

Hamro Party president Ajoy Edwards and his wife Namrata on Monday ended their hunger strike in support of the workers of Kanchan View tea garden following the intervention of Darjeeling district magistrate S. Ponnambalam.

Last week, the tea garden opened after six months after an April 6 meeting between the management, the district administration and tea unions, but workers thought that the management was more interested in using the garden for tourism than tea plantation.

The garden did open last Wednesday but the workers and Edwards, whose fledgling party won the Darjeeling civic polls recently, started an agitation.

On Monday, the Darjeeling DM assured the agitators that the uprooting of any new tea bushes would be strictly monitored and access roads to villages in the garden will be made after hearing the concerns of the workers. The management of the tea garden would have to follow all government guidelines and policies and immediately clear legitimate labour dues and retirement benefits, he said, adding that workers will also get a two-month cash aid under the Financial Assistance to the Workers of Locked out Industries (FAWLOI) scheme from the state government.

This apart, the plantation, tourism resort site and other details of the garden are to be demarcated. The demarcation of tea plantation land will be done on Tuesday and another meeting with all stakeholders of the garden will be held at the Darjeeling district magistrate’s office on Wednesday.

Jiten Rai, the advisor of the Gaon Sudhar Sammelan (GSS), a platform of the agitators, said that owing to a positive response to their nine-point demand, the agitation was being withdrawn. “Earlier our issues were not being heard. This time, we have got a positive response,” said Rai.

On April 6, representatives of the four trade unions affiliated to Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Bharatiya Prajatantrik Morcha, Gorkha National Liberation Front and Trinamul Congress, along with representatives of the GSS, had discussed the reopening of the tea garden with the management and the district administration.

Edwards’s Hamro Party was not invited as their trade union has not yet been recognised.

However, most workers and the GSS had expressed a “trust deficit” with the leaders of the four unions.

“We did not want the garden to reopen without our issues being considered. But union leaders agreed to reopen the garden in the meeting at Siliguri on April 6,” said Rai.

Roshan Lama, the president of the GSS, said that workers would not join their duties till the Wednesday meeting. “If that meeting is not fruitful, we will start a dharna,” he said.

J.B. Tamang, leader of the BGPM, alleged that the hunger strike had accomplished nothing. “Demarcation of land, clearance of dues and issues regarding roads had been agreed upon in the earlier talks,” said Tamang.


Some founder members of Hamro Party from Kalimpong such as Tribhuwan Rai, Pritam Sharma, Rebica Lepcha, Kaiser Shah, Riwaz Tamang, Lalit Rai, Bikash Kalikota, Binord Kalikotey, Bhakta Rasaily and others left the party on Sunday.

They alleged that their ideology did not match with the party and that the leaders of Darjeeling “looked down" on those from Kalimpong. The resignation comes in the wake of the party announcing the names of members of the central committee and other committees. Some of these leaders weren’t kept in those committees.

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