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Sit-ins before BJP legislators’ homes

Trinamul kicks off 10-day-long demonstrations over tea garden issues
Trinamul supporters demonstrate in front of John Barla’s house in the Jalpaiguri district on Friday
Trinamul supporters demonstrate in front of John Barla’s house in the Jalpaiguri district on Friday
Picture by Biplab Basak

Our Bureau   |   Siliguri   |   Published 28.01.23, 03:45 AM

The Trinamul Congress on Friday kicked off 10-day-long demonstrations in front of the residences of one BJP MP and five MLAs in the Dooars over a series of issues faced by tea garden workers.

This is the first time in north Bengal and probably in the entire state that Trinamul is holding dharnas in front of the houses of elected representatives of the BJP.   


Trinamul had announced the protests on Wednesday, alleging that BJP legislators had done nothing to ameliorate the problems in the brew belt. 

In the Alipurduar district, Trinamul leaders and tea garden labourers started the demonstrations in front of the residences of four BJP MLAs.

In the neighbouring Jalpaiguri district, the protests are being organised before the homes of Alipurduar MP and Union minister of state for minority affairs John Barla and Nagrakata MLA Puna Bhengra.

“We have resorted to demonstrations as the Narendra Modi government at the Centre has not done anything for Bengal’s tea industry. Central ministers and BJP leaders have made hollow promises during their visits to draw votes from the workers and their families,” said Rajesh Lakra, the Jalpaiguri district president of the INTTUC, Trinamul’s workers’ front.

The demonstrations are under the banner of the Trinamul Cha Bagan Sramik Union, which is affiliated with the INTTUC. 

“The Centre had announced a package of Rs 1,000 crore for the development of women and children of the tea belt in 2021. No money has been spent on this purpose so far. Also, the central government has not taken any initiative to meet a longstanding demand of the workers, that is, increase their age of retirement from 58 to 60,” Lakra added.

The demonstrators also alleged that the workers were being deprived of their provident fund as many of them were yet to get their Aadhaar cards linked to their PF accounts.

“There are a number of tea gardens which deducted PF from the workers’ wages but have not deposited the amounts in the EPFO (Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation). We need prompt steps from the EPFO authorities. The Tea Board of India has also stopped paying book grants (financial assistance) to students who live in tea plantations,” said a Trinamul leader.

In Jalpaiguri, the demonstration continued for around six hours in front of Barla’s house on the Lakhipara tea estate in Banarhat block. The junior central minister wasn’t at home then.

Similar demonstrations were also held near the houses of the MLAs of Madarihat, Kumargram, Falakata and Kalchini in the Alipurduar district.

Abhishek Banerjee, the all-India general secretary of Trinamul, while speaking at a public meeting in Malbazar last year, had announced that if the issues related to the PF were not resolved by December, there would be demonstrations in front of the houses of BJP MPs and MLAs.   

Barla on Friday said the EPFO authorities had filed police complaints against a number of tea estates that are defaulters in depositing PF. “The police didn’t, however, take any step against the tea companies concerned. We will soon hold demonstrations before police stations in the tea belt,” the BJP MP said.

The protests remained peaceful at most locations. However, in Kalchini, as Trinamul launched the demonstration near the house of MLA Bishal Lama, a group of BJP workers reached there. Both sides had an altercation. However, things became normal as Lama intervened.     

Later in the day, Lama launched a demonstration near his house against alleged corruption by a section of Trinamul leaders in connection with central schemes.

“From tomorrow, we will demonstrate in front of the house of Ganga Prasad Sharma,” said the MLA.

Sharma, a BJP deserter who is in Trinamul now, is also the chairman of Jaigaon Development Authority.

Cough syrups seized

A truck carrying around 15,000 bottles of cough syrup without proper documents was impounded by police in Cooch Behar on Thursday.

Suresh Singh and Raju Singh of Uttarakhand and Md. Aaman of Uttar Pradesh were arrested.

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