Kolkata,August 9 - Against an oppressive state machinery and vile attempts to diffuse the class movement in the North Bengal , Tea Garden workers took the lead in the state to dealt a blow to the aspirations of the ruling class , as their 72 hours Strike for according minimum wages according to the Minimum Wages Act , reached a pinnacle. Cutting across political affinities , about 29 Tea workers union has participated in the strike , by forging a strong movement , under the banner of ‘Joint Forum’ . The only exception has been ruling TMC affiliated unions , which has refused to side with the workers in their plight of implementing the Minimum wages in the Tea Industry of the State , mainly located in the North Bengal districts of Darjeeling Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Coochbihar districts . Defying the Police atrocities, manhandling , and constant barriers created by the axis of the Tea garden owners, apathetical police & Administration, and Ruling party hooligans , over lakhs of workers joined in the historical strike to provide them with the Basic minimum wage and the right to livelihood as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
The Movement also voiced their societal concern when on 9Th August , defying the elaborate Police oppression and ‘Nakabandi “ the Tea workers too , joined in the AIKS and Other Mass organization convened “ Jali Bhoro “ (Jail Fill up) programme on 9th August, especially in the areas’ which has border with the Agricultural tracts.
Is our legitimate Movement declared illegal by the Government? Or are they taking law in their hands? a visibly annoyed Joint Forum leadership including convenor Jia Ul Alam had asked the Police Top brass of the different districts , to which they only retorted that this exercise is being conducted under the direction of top rung administration of State. Indeed the bad mouthing being done by the posted Police personnel , who are entering the Tea gardens to force the Tea workers to enter the garden, despite not being called by the Tea Garden Authorities , just to fulfill the Zeal of their political masters , has given birth of to real discontent and hatred towards State Police and administration “, informed the leaders of the Strike. ‘They are not even showing minimum respects to the Tea workers and this whole exercize is happening without any formal order received’ rued the leaders of the ongoing Tea Workers Movement .
‘ It is really unthinkable to see how the Tea garden workers , being led by female workers , even in the absence of Leaders are getting out of their Tea gardens ,enthused by the strike, and though the gardens of the Darjeeling hill area , has been left out of the ambit of the strike , still the workers though not officially joined the strike, is not going to work and picketing in the Tea Garden areas , outside the Garden in support of their brethren in the Terai and Dooars. In many Tea gardens , the workers themselves are taking the onus to establish contact with the leaders of the Joint forum , which is heading the strike in the state’ said Jibesh Sarkar District secretary of CPI(M) Darjeeling district Unit , taking with this correspondent.
It can be recalled that unlike in neighbouring Assam , the Tea garden workers , who before 2012 often fell ploy to identity and community overtures and often in self destructing mode , and was a hot bed of clashes , united after the TMC Government failed to adhere to the demand of providing Basic minimum wages . This years’ struggle has been a path breaker as such was the intensity of the legitimate demand of providing Rs 249 , as daily wage for food and clothes , as per the Basic Minimum Wages Act , apart from the social security aspects like proving for Education, Shelter, electricity and other necessities , so much so, that though originally not envisaged by the Joint Forum leadership even the Tea Garden workers of the hilly area’s Darjeeling districts joined in the strike. CITU leader JIa Ul Alam, Convenor of the Joint Forum , told Prajasakti that the all the 29 unions area adamant in fulfilling the demands and during the ongoing tripartite discussions, although the Government representatives has buckled under invisible pressure , however the Workers Unions has been constant in demanding that the present Government proposal Rs 172 as daily wage , is not constant with the rule of the land , and that Rs 249 should be the Minimum wage for Food and Clothing and according to the Basic parameters to be provided as the Minimum Wage in the country.
“ Not only this movement is based on the class approach , and concerns with their right to livelihood, this is a eye opener for all . Can u show a single instance after 2012 , when violent clashes on the basis of identity , communal or sectarian hues , has affected the area.? Other clashes due to political polarization any clashes of the earlier nature is now unknown in the Tea Gardens and amongst Tea workers and ploy of the ruling class which had gained ground earlier has failed after the Joint Forum was formed in 2012’ said CITU leader and Joint forum Convenor Jia Ul Alam . He alsoHhhhhh
It can be recalled there are more than 300 big , small , and medium tea gardens spread across the 4 districts in the North Bengal , and even in tertiary area’s of the Terai and Doars spread across the neighboring districts . More than 1 million people of North Bengal are directly or indirectly dependent with Tea Economy of the North Bengal , while after the Change of Governance in West Bengal in 2011 the constant refusal of the West Bengal Government , to comply with the Minimum Wages Act , and statutory labour regulations , even in the Tripartite Meets , has put the Tea workers plight even more obscure .Even starvation death occurred due to withdrawal of assistance to the workers of the closed tea gardens started by the earlier Left Front Government, had made the situation even more complex. In this background the formation of unified spearhead of movement in the North Bengal , now known as the Joint Forum , has united the Tea garden workers against oppressions to greater scale.