Tea workers’ plight causes concern

National Commission for Schedule Tribes (NCST) chairperson Ms Urmila Singh has expressed utter dismay at the distressed condition of the tea garden workers of the Terai region of north Bengal.

The NCST chairperson, who alighted at Bagdogra airport today leading a four-member delegation, expressed disappointment after visiting the Subal Vita tea plantation at Khoribari in Siliguri this afternoon. Subal Vita happens to be a division of the erstwhile Chandmoni tea estate, which has now been converted into an urban housing hub by the Bengal Ambuja, adjacent to Siliguri town.

“We have visited Subal Vita and feel very sorry to say that the workers there are living in utter distress in the absence of proper drinking water, housing, roads and healthcare facilities. In fact, the condition of the hospital there is so dilapidated that it is unfit even for treating animals,” Ms Singh said at a Press conference at the Siliguri Circuit House.

The distressed condition of Subal Vita has given a “gloomy” start to the NCST team’s three-day long Terai-Dooars visit, she said, adding that these issues would be raised during her meeting with the state government in Kolkata on 16 and 17 February.
Ms Singh declined to comment on the recent spate of clashes between the Adivasis and the Gorkhas over the latter’s push for Gorkhaland agitation in the Dooars. “This matter is related to the home department and is beyond our jurisdiction,” she said.
Meanwhile, the NCST members today met a delegation of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad (ABAVP) led by its Terai president Mr Nicodim Minz at the Siliguri Circuit House and heard their grievances against the backdrop of recent violence in the Dooars.

The Central team also held a separate discussion with a three-member delegation of the Lepcha Tribal Association from Kalimpong, the agenda of which could not be known.
In the next two days, the NCST delegation will visit places like Malbazar, Birpara, Banarhat, Nagrakata and Kachini ~ all in the Dooars ~ and will take stock of the socio-economic condition of the tea-growing populace there.