Tea workers’ stir worries LF

SILIGURI, Nov. 18: The principal constituents of the West Bengal Left Front today cautioned that growing resentment over a number of issues among the tribal tea plantation labourers might lead to a major law and order problem in north Bengal in near future.

“The portents are ominous. Grievances have been growing among the tribal community principally concentrated in the tea plantations over the continuing deprivation. This unrest being negatively channelised for some time might snowball into a major law and order problem in the region,” said the Darjeeling district RSP, Forward Bloc and CPI leaders.

The RSP Darjeeling district secretary Mr Binay Chakravarty said that the tribal people working in the tea plantation were at the receiving end of the exploitative tactics being adopted by the plantation owners. “The subservient role being played by the Centre and the state government is accentuating the problem. The depth of the apathy to the plight of the workers can be gauged from the fact that the tea plantation related housing board meeting had been held a week ago after a span of a decade. Moreover, there is no drinking water provision in most of the tea plantations in the Darjeeling and the Jalpaiguri districts,” he said.

The FB Darjeeling district secretary Mr Smritish Bhattacharya said that apart from the lack of drinking water provision there is no health centre to cater to the medical requirements of the plantation workers. “Besides, the residential quarters in many plantations are crumbling. This situation, becoming alarming as it is, may spiral out of the control of the administration any time unless the pent up grievances are sincerely addressed,” the FB leader said.

Echoing the apprehension, the CPI Darjeeling district secretary Mr Ujjawal Chowdhury said that mere profiteering inclination on the part of the plantation owners in flagrant violation of the Plantation Labour Act might land the region in problem. “The Centre and the state government should step in immediately to force the owners to take initiatives at bettering the living condition of the workers,” he said.
Asked to comment the CPI-M state committee member Mr Jibesh Sarkar said that the Left Front government had been doing everything to better the living conditions of the plantation workers. “But a state government, given several constraints, cannot go against the socio-economic structure of the country. Nonetheless, the wages have increased many times over the past years because of relentless pressure from the state government on the profit mongering owners. The faulty Central economic policy is responsible for the fast worsening plight of the poor people as a whole,” the CPI-M leader asserted.