Intuc cries foul against rally holiday

The CPM and its labour wing have asked gardens in the Terai to declare holidays for the next two days to enable tea workers to attend rallies of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Darjeeling district Intuc has alleged.

“We have no problem if the CPM and Citu supporters and workers in tea estates go out to attend the rallies. But issuing diktats to induce more people to go to the meetings is not acceptable,” said Aloke Chakraborty, the president of the Darjeeling district Intuc, today. “We have specific information that representatives of the management in some tea estates have declared two-day holiday in the gardens. We condemn this effort to cajole the employees and their families into attending party meetings.”

The Intuc leader has sought the chief minister’s intervention to mitigate the workers’ woes because of a “drought-like situation” in the region.

“The CPM speaks a lot about the working class. If it is really sincere to protect the workers’ interests, the chief minister should then check out why the government has issued an order that said no tea estate can channel or take out water from a water body located near the plantation. The order was issued despite the fact that the tea bushes are suffering from pest attack and drying everyday in want of rain in a drought-like situation,” Chakraborty said. “If tea bushes dry up, the workers will ultimately be affected.”

The CPM has, however, denied the charge. “These are baseless allegations levelled before the polls,” said Jibesh Sarkar, the party candidate of the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat. “We don’t need to issue any diktat as people come to our meetings spontaneously. However, instructions have been passed on to party supporters in the estates to attend the chief minister’s meeting.”

Bhattacharjee will reach here by the afternoon flight and address a workers’ meeting at Kanchenjungha Stadium. He will also meet district leaders at the party office and stay at the Circuit House. On Sunday, the chief minister will visit Saidabad Tea Estate, 25km from here, to address another rally before leaving for Bagdogra on way to Calcutta.

The chief minister’s visit has assumed significance especially after today’s incident in Darjeeling where Sarkar and other party leaders were allegedly harassed by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters, party sources said.

“Party supporters as well as district leaders are eagerly waiting to hear from him as to what they should do to intensify the campaign,” a source said.