GNLF: Prod for tea hands to seek work
The GNLF has alleged that management of some tea gardens in the Darjeeling hills is asking labourers to sign on petitions stating they would want to go back to work.
The Bengal government has not given permission to resume work in tea plantations even though the Centre had on April 3 issued an order allowing normal operations in the gardens with 50 per cent of the labourers.
S.K. Lama, the general secretary of the Himalayan Plantation Workers’ Union, the trade union of the GNLF, on Wednesday said: “Certain garden managers have prepared a memorandum written in English and are asking workers to sign on it. The memorandum basically states labourers are willing to work in the gardens.”
The GNLF leader said the memorandum addressed to Bengal chief secretary read “as per government order we, (the workers) have stayed in quarantine since March 25 and none are ill, including those who have returned to their villagers from outside the region”.
Lama said: “Surprisingly, the memorandum asks the government to request the owners to start operations and the workers would adhere to social distancing norms. Nothing could be more weird as the management has drafted this letter in English.”
A planter, who did not want to go into the specifics of the petition, however, said: “The mass petition issue when brought to my notice was stopped.”
The Darjeeling hills have 87 tea gardens which together have around 70,000 workers.
Lama also said the Joint Forum, a conglomeration of more than 23 tea trade unions, wanted all managements to pay wages during the lockout period as advised by the Centre.
“If management fails to pay wages, we urge workers to lodge a complaint at the nearest police station immediately. The Joint Forum will help them in this exercise,” said Lama.
A planter said some tea gardens had started paying wages for lockdown days.
GTA chief Anit Thapa inaugurated a new quarantine centre in Kalimpong.