Rally to counter rival hold – Tea estates in hills shut for Morcha meeting

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Nov. 22: A Gorkha Janmukti Morcha meeting to “educate” garden workers on the interim set-up turned out to be a show of strength at a time when its rivals have started mobilising their supporters in the hills.

Four-five of the 80 gardens in the Darjeeling hills were open today with the management of Longview estate asking the 41 workers who had reported for duty to take leave.

The pre-scheduled meeting organised by the Darjeeling Terai-Dooars Plantation Labour Union at Chowk Bazar was part of the party’s continuous campaign to “educate” its supporters on the need to include the tauzi department and the Terai and Dooars in the proposed set-up.

The meeting assumed importance as both the Democratic Front, an anti-Morcha conglomeration, and the GNLF have recently started increasing their activities.

Most of the gardens were closed today, barring a few where supporters of the CPRM and the GNLF reported for work. “About four to five gardens reported partial work today,” said Sandeep Mukherjee, secretary of Darjeeling Tea Association.

Sources said in a couple of gardens in Kurseong subdivision’s Sonada Valley, about 10 per cent of the workforce reported for duty. The valley is a traditional CPRM bastion.

However, much of the drama was confined to the Longview tea garden, about 70km from Darjeeling where the GNLF had formed its unit recently. The sources said the Morcha supporters did not want the management to blow the siren, a report-for-duty order, in the morning. Instead, the party had demanded that the workers should be allowed to take a leave.

“Supporters of the GNLF, however, wanted the siren to be sounded as they wanted to join work. But the management decided not to blow the siren in the morning,” said a source.

Of the 1,200-odd workers, 41 reported for work, despite the siren not being played. But the Morcha affiliated union leaders told the management that if these workers were paid, all others who had gone on leave should also be paid their wages.

“Ultimately, the management asked the 41 workers to take an off while assuring them that they would be paid their wages,” said the source. Addressing the meeting at Chowk Bazar, Morcha general- secretary Roshan Giri took a dig at the GNLF.

“We have raised the issue of a separate statehood in Parliament but what have the previous MPs done?” He said in 1988, the formation of the DGHC facilitated the formation of the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad. “There is no mahakuma parishad in the country and the formation was facilitated (by the GNLF) by the creation of the DGHC,” Giri said.


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