TMC tea union stirs in hills
A trade union of the Trinamul Congress has intensified activities in over 80 tea gardens in the Darjeeling hills with the attempt bearing hints of an intense political tussle as the BJP also started a membership drive among plantation workers.
Although the Cha Bagan Trinamul Congress Mazdoor Union was present in the hills on paper, it always maintained a low profile and took part only in common political programmes with ally, the Binay Tamang faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
However, over the past couple of weeks, the Trinamul union tried to reach out to the tea belt population in the hills and started flagging some of the key issues related to workers, including the demand to reopen some estates.
“The union was formed earlier by the party but so far, its programmes were confined to the tea gardens of the Terai and Dooars. However, in the hills, the tea workers and their families have equal problems and there are several pending issues which need to be resolved for their socio-economic development. That is why we have decided to initiate our activities under the banner of the trade union in the hill tea gardens,” said N.B. Khawas, the coordinator of Trinamul’s Darjeeling (hills) district committee.
Sources in the party said a meeting had been convened by the trade union at Thurbo Tea Estate in Mirik subdivision of Darjeeling district last week.
The union is also focusing on the closed tea gardens of the hills and the adjoining Terai and is coordinating with the state labour department to ensure that all permanent workers in these gardens are provided with the monthly financial assistance of Rs 1,500.
“It is significant that Trinamul is introducing its union in the hills. The plan to flag the issues of tea workers — which are no different from those in the Terai and the Dooars — after staying in power for almost a decade is also interesting. It seems Trinamul does not want to leave any space for the BJP in the hill tea belt,” said an observer.