TEA WATCH: Peace breach cloud on tea strike

TEA WATCH: Peace breach cloud on tea strike – GJM to the rescue ?!!

Tea Garden workers - determined to join ?!!

THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU

Siliguri/Jaigaon, May 31: Stakeholders of the tea industry are apprehending law and order problems with the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad-affiliated Progressive Tea Workers’ Union announcing that it will not participate in the tea strike on June 7.

“We will not join the strike and the movement announced by the Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers and the Defence Committee for Plantation Workers’ Rights on June 7,” said Shukra Munda, the chairperson of Progressive Union.

Munda said he had informed the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri, A.K. Singh, about the decision of Progressive Union members to stay away from the strike.

The Coordination Committee and the Defence Committee — two apex bodies of trade unions that have Citu, Intuc and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha as members — in a joint convention on May 25 announced that the workers would demonstrate at the main gates of all tea estates in the region from June 1 to 6, followed by a strike on June 7.

The decision comes after the gardens refused an interim hike in wages, which at present is Rs 62 per day. The demand for the hike was made citing the rise in prices of essential commodities.

The Parishad that has been spearheading movements on tribal issues in the Terai and Dooars, had on its own demanded that the wage be increased to Rs 250 per day.

Many fear that this division among the tea trade unions regarding the interim hike, particularly at a time when the Progressive Union has become a cause of concern for established labour bodies like Citu and Intuc, may lead to breaking down of law and order in the tea belts.

“As they are losing base in tea belts, the established trade unions will be desperate to prove their support and discourage workers from joining duty. The Parishad supporters may protest because now they have a significant support base and can afford to defy the strike call,” an observer said.

Progressive Union leaders said their supporters would report for regular duties. “Our members will join their regular work on the day of the strike. If they face any opposition from rival trade unions, it is the administration’s respinsibility to ensure their security or else, there can be worst situations,” a Progressive Union leader said.

Samir Roy, convener of the Defence Committee, said all trade unions were free to decide whether they would join the strike or not. “We had invited them to join our convention, but they did not. Now if they take such a decision, we cannot insist on their participation in the strike.”

Glare on tea trader for ‘child labour’ logo – cute but politically inappropriate, a marketeer’s ad blunder ?!!

A packet of Denzong Tea with the controversial logo. (Photo by Prabin Khaling)

BY BIJOY GURUNG

Gangtok, May 31: A tea distributor has been accused of using a logo, registered as early as 1996, that goes against the image of today’s Sikkim which claims to be free of child labour.

The distributor, Denzong Tea, has been selling CTC tealeaves in 50gm and 100gm packets that depict a picture of a girl dressed in shining yellow traditional attire plucking green leaves in a picturesque tea garden. The packets with the picture have been on the Sikkim market since 1996.

A decade later, the Sikkim government is determined not to let the picture sully its image as a state that does not tolerate child labour.

“We were not aware of such a picture in the tea packets. The idea of pasting the image of a small girl plucking tea leaves in the packets is definitely harming the image of Sikkim. We have decided to immediately process the matter and put it up before senior officials to take action,” said Bisan Rai, the joint labour commissioner of Sikkim.

“The logo in the packets can also send a wrong message that there is child labour in the Temi tea garden, the sole organic garden in Sikkim owned by the state. The department has been taking strong steps for zero child labour in Sikkim which have yielded very good results,” said the joint labour commissioner. He added that tea packets such as Denzong’s could reach markets outside the state through tourists, tarnishing Sikkim’s image.

Although child labour is absent in the organised sector, many families in the state keep domestic helps who are children. But often the employers cannot be booked as they introduce the children as somebody they have given shelter and taken the responsibility to feed and educate.

M.B. Limboo, vice-convener of the labour wing of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), said the marketing concept behind the logo of the Denzong Tea was wrong.

“The logo sends a wrong message of the existence of child labour in Sikkim despite the efforts of the state government to free the state from child labour,” said Limboo. He added that the company should withdraw such packets from the market.

Curiously, there is no government agency to regulate logos of private companies in Sikkim.

In fact, Denzong Tea proprietor Raj Kumar Prasad had registered the logo in New Delhi in 1996. Prasad said the picture in the packet is a model only and he had no intention to use it against the interests of Sikkim.

“I had used the picture of my niece dressed in traditional attire to highlight the beauty of Sikkim and got the logo registered in New Delhi in 1996. We don’t intend to tarnish the image of Sikkim,” said the proprietor. Denzong Tea gets its CTC leaves from Siliguri and the packaging is done in Singtam, 30km from Gangtok.

Prasad said his tea products were sold in the markets of Sikkim. “Till today no complaint has come and if it does, I will definitely change the logo and use alternative pictures,” he said.

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