The joint forum of tea garden workers in Northern West Bengal will continue their strike on Tuesday, seeking to get a raise in minimum wages. The two-day ‘bandh’, which was called in several parts of the hills, including, Terai and Dooars, by Joint Forum of Trade Unions, started on Monday. The workers are demanding a rise in wages as per the Minimum Wages Act and benefits as per the Food Securities Act. The strike was declared as illegal by the state government.
According to Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) state general secretary Anadi Sahoo, the strike received huge response from workers. “We received 100 per cent response from gardens in Darjeeling hills. In other places, more than 90 per cent workers observed the strike,” the CITU leader told The Indian Express.
On Monday, the strike was observed in around 400 tea gardens in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar. It was also observed in parts of Mekhliganj sub-division in Cooch Behar and Islampur sub-division of North Dinajpur. According to Sahoo, the police tried to intervene and foil the strike, but were unable to do so. “In some places, police tried to foil the strike, but failed. In Naxalbari, some workers were arrested. However, there was no confrontation between police and our workers,” Sahoo said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blamed the Opposition for “provoking” tea workers, while the Left Front, along with CPM had come out strongly against TMC government. Speaking to media, Left Front chairman Biman Bose expressed solidarity with the tea workers and criticised government’s move to declare the strike as illegal. “Instead of standing by the tea workers, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declared the strike as illegal. The Left Front demands the withdrawal of such statements made by (Mamata) Banerjee, and the state government must also solve the issues which have plagued the tea workers,” he said.
Tea gardens are an integral part of state’s economy and the strike is expected to cause a loss of approximately Rs 10 crore to the industry.