Tea workers’ union hits back at minister’s lay-off proposal

SILIGURI, Dec. 15: The political and workers’ union leaders across the political spectrum have taken strong exception to the Union minister of state for commerce and industry Mr Jairam Ramesh's lay off proposal for the tea plantations in Terai and Dooars of north Bengal. “The Union minister was expected to provide solace to the half starved tea plantation labourers, but he has instead threatened to liquidate them in the form of his lay off proposal. We under no circumstances would acquiesce before such a perilous proposal,” said the leaders of the Intuc, Citu and Aituc, the trade union wings of the Congress, CPI-M and CPI.

The reactions come following Mr Ramesh's comments in Jalpaiguri yesterday that the principal impediment to the revival of the doddering tea industry in north Bengal was the enormous bulk of its work force. “The only practical solution left to us in the direction of revival is to retrench the extra burden in the work force by way of VRS and other methods,” he said.

Threatening to stonewall such a proposal, the state Intuc president and a senior state Congress leader Mr Subrata Mukherjee said that his organisation would storm the Union minister's office in New Delhi if he continued with such infantile utterances regarding labour retrenchment in the plantations. Echoing the Intuc leader's aggressive pitch the state Citu president Mr Kali Ghosh said that if the Centre went forward to act on the minister's proposal his trade union would resort to a no-holds -barred retaliation. “We would paralyse everything if the Centre does anything of this kind in its desperation to placate the plantation owners,” he said.
Taking umbrage to the Union minister's revival prescription, the state Aituc president Mr Ranjit Guha said that his union hoped that the Centre would not take Mr Ramesh and his utterances seriously.