Tamang starts fast over tea bonus
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Binay Tamang on Sunday started his indefinite hunger strike here over hill tea workers’ bonus, declaring there would be no “further negotiations” and that the agitation would be lifted only after he receives a “written agreement” for a bonus of 20 per cent.
Tamang launched a no-holds-barred attack on the Darjeeling Tea industry management, saying the proprietors were exploiting and taking advantage of the situation.
“I had given them an ultimatum till October 4 but they choose to ignore it. There will be no further negotiations on the bonus issue now. I will lift this hunger strike only after I receive a written agreement stating that they will pay 20 per cent bonus,” said Tamang. He made it clear that the tea industry management would be “held responsible if anything happens” to his health.
Tamang started this agitation to demand bonus at the rate of 20 per cent of a worker’s annual earnings. The management has so far only offered 15.5 per cent, leading to a deadlock and resulting in the hill tea workers going without their bonus during Puja for the first time in recent memory.
The Morcha leader warned that his party would harden its stand against the management on different fronts. “These days, roads in tea gardens are constructed by the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), houses and sanitation (facilities) are given by the GTA and state government. We take care of the water supply, too. The management has been mollycoddled a bit too much but things will change now,” Tamang said. Tamang’s party colleague Anit Thapa heads the GTA.
Tamang threatened to close down “resorts in tea gardens”, claiming they had been set up without proper permission from the state government and the GTA. “Tea garden workers are being made to work in these resorts for Rs 176 (daily). This will stop now.”
The Tamang faction of the Morcha said it would ensure “all fringe benefits” laid down in the plantation and industrial acts are implemented in the hill gardens.
“The management no longer distributes coal and firewood to workers. They will have to distribute from January 2020. We will ensure that all fringe benefits are given to the workers. The management has stopped reimbursing medical expenses of workers. They will have to start doing so from today according to the prevalent rules,” Tamang said.
Tamang also alleged that the tea management had created “fake buyers” outside India and threatened to “expose” them.
Morcha supporters brought out a rally from Ghoom with Tamang joining from Dali, around 4km from the town. Later, Tamang sat on the hunger strike at Darjeeling Motor Stand. The Darjeeling Tea industry had not officially reacted to Tamang’s statement till the filing of this report.