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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 April 2024

Dhupguri byelection result shows that Trinamul Congress could augment its base in tea belt

Ritabrata Banerjee, state president of INTTUC, trade union of Trinamul, said 2019 election results made them recast their focus on tea belt

Avijit Sinha Siliguri Published 09.09.23, 06:03 AM
Bengal labour minister Moloy Ghatak (second from left) and state INTTUC president Ritabrata Banerjee (right) visit a creche along with others in New Glanco tea garden in Jalpaiguri district

Bengal labour minister Moloy Ghatak (second from left) and state INTTUC president Ritabrata Banerjee (right) visit a creche along with others in New Glanco tea garden in Jalpaiguri district

The Dhupguri byelection result has shown that the Trinamul Congress could augment its base in the tea belt of north Bengal, where the Mamata Banerjee government introduced a number of welfare schemes and the party merged multiple trade unions of workers in the past few years.

Trinamul, which came to power in the state in 2011, faltered in retaining the support of the tea population in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

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This is because a majority of workers and their families sided with the saffron camp and helped the party win three Parliament seats in the region.

Ritabrata Banerjee, the state president of the INTTUC, the trade union of Trinamul, said the 2019 election results made them recast their focus on the tea belt.

He said since 2020, Trinamul has been nurturing the tea belt. On one hand, the trade union and the party have taken certain initiatives. On the other hand, the state government has come up with various schemes which help the workers and their families.

“Consistent activities, coupled with implementation of the schemes, have finally started yielding leverage for the party. It was visible after the results of the rural polls were declared in July this year. Today, the bypoll result reconfirmed it,” Banerjee told The Telegraph on Friday.

A number of tea estates of Banarhat block in Jalpaiguri district are under the Dhupguri Assembly seat.

Earlier, there were multiple trade unions of Trinamul in the tea belt.

“We formed the Trinamul Cha Bagan Sramik Union and asserted there would be only one union. Because of the presence of multiple unions, there was confusion among workers. We also started highlighting the Centre’s negligence in addressing problems of the tea industry,” he added.

Such steps, however, didn’t help Trinamul much as in the 2021 Assembly polls, the party could bag only one seat – Malbazar – in the tea belt while the rest went to BJP – both in plains and hills.

In north Bengal, votes of the tea population decide the results of around 15 (of 54) Assembly seats.

Last year, the party's national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee stepped in. He made a slew of announcements for the tea workers, including the establishment of health centres, ambulance services and crèches where women workers could keep their children.

For the first time, he announced identity cards for tea workers. All these projects are being implemented in phases.

“On the other hand, the state announced a first-of-its-kind free housing scheme for tea workers and recently, another important decision was made to provide land rights to the workers. These initiatives worked, vis-à-vis the silence of the central government in helping the tea population,” said a senior trade union leader of Trinamul.

For example, in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar, 33 health centres and 48 crèches will come up in the tea belt, along with ambulance services. Out of these, 16 crèches and health centres are ready while work is in progress in other locations.

“The residents of tea estates have seen that we have met our commitments. Also, the tea wage is being regularly revised and is higher than the BJP-ruled state of Assam now,” said the state Inttuc president.

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