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Raju Bista dares Abhishek Banerjee on tea land rights

The BJP MP asks TMC’s national general secretary to address two key issues of tea garden workers within six months

Vivek Chhetri Darjeeling Published 14.09.22, 02:01 AM
Darjeeling MP Raju Bista.

Darjeeling MP Raju Bista. File picture

Darjeeling BJP MP Raju Bista has thrown the gauntlet at Trinamul’s national general secretary and Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee, asking the latter to provide land rights and implement the minimum wages act in the tea gardens of north Bengal within six months.

On Sunday, at a public meeting at Malbazar in Jalpaiguri district, Abhishek threatened to lay siege to the homes of BJP MPs and MLAs in north Bengal if the Centre didn’t solve the problems the labourers faced in linking their provident fund accounts to Aadhaar cards by December 31.


“Today, I am giving him double that time, six months, and challenge him to address two main issues of the tea garden workers: i) provisioning of Parja Patta land rights to the workers, and ii) to implement Minimum Wages Act, and the New Labour Codes in the tea gardens and cinchona gardens of North Bengal,” Bista said in a written statement.

Bista is also a BJP national spokesperson and Bharatiya Gorkha Yuva Morcha national general secretary.

His statement is seen as an attempt to counter Trinamul’s fresh move to make inroads in the tea belt.

With over 3.5-lakh workers employed in the nearly 300 -odd tea gardens of north Bengal, land rights is a major issue with the potential to swing worker support in the region.

Bista said that land was a state subject, and while tea garden workers have not been granted land rights, the tea management was being granted land to develop tea tourism.

The BJP has a strong support base in north Bengal as the party won 30 of the 54 Assembly seats from north Bengal in 2021 and seven of the eight north Bengal parliamentary seats in 2019.

Trinamul has been continuously focussing on tea gardens of north Bengal to expand its base in the tea belts. In fact, the Malbazar meeting was organised exclusively for tea garden workers where Abhishek made a slew of announcements for the industry, including identity cards for workers, crèches and primary health centres with ambulances.

The BJP MP, however, alleged that north Bengal was being deprived by the state government.

“Fact is, Trinamul pretends to care for North Bengal, but only on paper. The WB Budget for 2022-23 is Rs 3.21-lakh crore. WB budget allocation for North Bengal's Development Dept (NBDD) is Rs 798 crore only. Less than 0.002% of total state budget is allocated for the development of 8 districts of North Bengal,” alleged Bista.

The BJP MP claimed that even the allocated budget was not fully utilised.

“In the year 2021-22, the budget allocation for NBDD was only Rs 776.51 crore, however they only used 34% of that or Rs 271 crore. Same has been the case in 2020-21, where allocation for NBDD was supposed to be Rs 731.76 crore, but even from that they only spent Rs 274 crore or 37% of the allocated budget,” said Bista.

The budget figures rolled out by Bista, however, could not be independently verified immediately.

Officials contacted by this newspaper said that funds to north Bengal district do not only come through the NBDD.

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