MP appeals to end job hunger strike; Over 130 protesters admitted to hospital

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Sept. 16: Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh today appealed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to ask the DGHC contractual workers to withdraw their indefinite hunger strike, as around 135 of them have been hospitalised.

Over 6,000 members of the Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangatan (JAKS), a Morcha affiliate, are on hunger strike for the past three days demanding regularisation of their jobs.

“I make an appeal to the Morcha to reconsider its decision to continue with the hunger strike. I am distressed to see so much of human suffering and troubled to see even those in need of medicine refusing to take them. I will take up the matter with the Union home minister and raise it in Parliament,” Singh said.

The MP’s appeal came during a visit to the protesters at the Gymkhana Club hall in the afternoon.

Singh said, apart from Gorkhaland, he was also pursuing the Prime Minister and other central ministers the improvement of infrastructure in the hills. “The state government has not allotted enough funds for the hills following the devastation caused by Cyclone Aila.”

The Congress chief whip in the Assembly, Manas Bhuniya, has demanded the chief minister’s intervention to end the hunger strike. “On humanitarian ground, I will write to the chief minister and the chief secretary demanding their immediate interventions. I will inform the Prime Minister and others about the state of affairs and request them to get a report from the state government as the issue is a state subject,” he said over the phone from Calcutta.

Expressing “surprise” over the government’s silence, he said: “I have got a report from Pranay Rai, the Darjeeling MLA, and it is surprising that the state government is silent on this issue. If this issue is not solved immediately, there could be problems in the hills during Durga Puja.”

Rai has urged all political leaders of the state to look into the DGHC workers’ grievances. “They have worked for the past 21 years without getting any benefits. It is time that they are regularised,” he said.

Machendra Subba, president, JAKS, said DGHC administrator B.L. Meena told him that he would meet them tomorrow. “I have, however, not got anything in writing.”

Around 135 protesters were hospitalised, Subba said. “From Darjeeling alone, about 60-70 strikers have been taken to the district hospital.”

The Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha has called a strike in all hill colleges tomorrow, demanding immediate government intervention.

Keshav Raj Pokhral, the general secretary of the Morcha’s student wing, said: “We want the principal secretary of the higher education department to visit Darjeeling before October 5 and see for himself the condition of the colleges. We have called a strike tomorrow to pressure the government,” he told a rally of school students in Darjeeling.

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