ABAVP threat vexes tea workers

Tea worker union leaders expressed concern at the Ahkil Bhartiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad's threat to boycott the Lok Sabha polls unless the state government concede to their demands by 31 March. According to the worker union leaders, the ABAVP threat could have a major impact on non-Adivasi voters, who might shy away from exercising their franchise.

According to Mr Chitta De, convener of the Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers ~ a platform of 18 tea worker unions ~ the move could deprive many of their right to vote. “The ABAVP is an NGO. It cannot restrict people from exercising their democratic rights. The ABAVP is trying to exploit the plantation workers. We will not let them do so. We are organizing regular meetings with the workers to convince them to cast their votes.”

The National Union of Plantation Workers secretary, Mr Moni Darnal, said that nobody could stop the people from voting. “The political tension in the Dooars has already damaged harmony in the region and it is our responsibility to heal the wound. We are trying to convince our supporters not to be influenced by the ABAVP,” he said.
The majority of Jalpaiguri district's voters belong to the tea plantations, which play a decisive role in the constituency as well as in Alipurduar. According to the Citu state vice-president, Mr Manik Sanyal, the district has about four lakh voters in the tea plantations. “We want to ensure that neither the ABAVP nor the GJMM exploits them,” Mr Sanyal said.

The All India secretary of Hind Majdoor Sabha, Mr Samir Roy, said that the tea workers were concerned about their rights. “We presume the ABAVP will finally change its position.”

ABAVP’s Terai-Dooars coordination committee secretary Mr Rajesh Lakra reacted by saying that their campaign in the tea belt was to make supporters aware of the outfit's stand.