The Bengal government is speeding up the process of distributing free homes to tea workers of north Bengal after the festivities.
The move is being seen as a serious effort by Trinamul to revive its support in the tea belt before the rural polls. In recent years, most in the brew belt have chosen the BJP.
According to senior bureaucrats, the administration of tea districts, especially Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar, have been asked to confirm that construction of homes for tea workers in the first phase under “Cha Sundari” scheme is ready.
“Construction work of houses is almost over in these two districts. Ancillary work like drinking water and power supply and road construction are on. We are regularly monitoring progress and want houses to be distributed as soon as possible,” said an official.
In 2020, then Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra had announced the housing scheme for tea workers. In due course, vacant land was identified in some tea estates and work on the first phase of the scheme started.
To cite the instance of Alipurduar district, 476 houses are being readied in the Torsha tea estate of Kalchini block while 315 and 327 houses are almost ready in Mujnai and Dheklapara tea estates, both in Madarihat-Birpara block.
A senior Trinamul functionary in the Dooars said they plan to distribute homes of the first phase and start construction work of the second phase before rural polls.
“The project was announced in 2020 but got delayed for certain reasons. As houses could not be handed over to workers ahead of last year’s Assembly polls, our political rivals got a chance to convince the tea belt to support them. We don’t want a repeat of it in the rural polls,” he said.
Support of the tea belt decides the rural poll results of Darjeeling, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri.
Also, the tea population has a say in a part of North Dinajpur.
That Trinamul is focusing on the tea belt was evident last month when the party’s all India general secretary Abhishek Banerjee made some new announcements for the tea population in Malbazar.
While speaking at a public meeting only for tea workers, Abhishek had announced that the state labour department will issue identity cards to each worker, health centres with ambulance facilities would come up in centrally located tea estates and crèches built in estates where female workers can keep their children during work hours.
“The distribution of identity cards has started and there is a plan to finish the task by January next year. This is the first time tea workers are getting an identity card issued by the state government. Also, identification of sites or health centres and crèches have started,” said a source in the state labour department.