GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Shutdown defiance: twice in a month – Hills at work, Dooars too pluck leaves

GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Shutdown defiance: twice in a month – Hills at work, Dooars too pluck leaves – morcha exemption heeded, Left support base eroded for their just dues of Rs 67 daily wages ?!!

Workers line up to get plucked leaves weighed in a Dooars garden on Monday - cannot afford the luxury of strikes due to skyrocketing prices ?!! Can anybody ?!! (Photo by Biplab Basak)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Siliguri, July 5: A second bandh defiance in a month for Rs 67 has struck at the root of the Left support base in the Dooars where more than 80 per cent of the workforce reported for duty. Of the 227 gardens in the Dooars and the Terai, more than 180 were open.

Most of the workers — once Citu supporters — said they were not ready to forego the Rs 67 they get as daily wage even as the strike called by the Left cost the Bengal government, according to finance department sources, around Rs 970 crore.

“Except for a few tea estates in the Terai and the Dooars, workers reported for duty in about 80 per cent of the gardens. The strike has failed to impact the industry, as workers are no longer interested in parting with their wages. They have realised that participating in the strike will not help them,” said Shukra Munda, chairperson of the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, the trade union of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad.

The tribal outfit has been making inroads into the Dooars and Terai displacing dominant unions like Citu and the Congress’s Intuc.

Since setting up base in 80 per cent of the gardens, the Parishad had convinced workers not to support any strikes called by the older unions as no bandh had ever been called when the gardens shut down one by one.

According to Munda, the tribal outfit has units in around 80 per cent tea estates of the region. “The workers could not relate themselves with the cause of the strike. Their problems are more basic like lack of drinking water facilities, low wages, dilapidated quarters, delay in disbursement of ration, non-payment of gratuities and PF by a section of employers, lack of employment and educational opportunities. As none of the established political parties are addressing these issues, it is natural that the workers and their families will not join the strike,” he said.

Munda claimed his organisation has been regularly addressing workers issues. “But other political parties don’t. Now and then some trade union leaders make hue and cry about the workers right but in those cases too, they have their own interests on mind. At the last tea strike called on June 7, the workers had reported for duty,” Munda said.

In the hills, tea gardens and cinchona plantations were open, as they had been exempted from the strike.

Somra Baraik, a permanent worker at Atal Tea Estate in the Terai, said: “If we don’t go to work, the management will not pay us. If I don’t earn the minimum amount of Rs 67 that I get everyday, it would be impossible for me to get essential commodities even if prices of these items come down” he said. “People with government jobs can sit idle and enjoy the bandh, we cannot afford it.”

Intuc, which had called the June 7 strike with Citu for an interim wage hike in the gardens, today came down heavily on the Left parties. “The workers defied the bandh as none of their aspirations have been fulfilled by the Left Front during its 34 year rule in Bengal. For a tea worker, earning daily wages is more important that participating in a strike called against the price hike of petroleum products,” said Alok Chakraborty, the Darjeeling district Intuc president.

CPM leaders admitted that most gardens were open but refused to accept that its support base was fast eroding. “The gardens were not open because of any organisational weakness, but because we did not enforce the strike in the brew belt,” said Jibesh Sarkar, a state committee member of the CPM and a Citu leader.

MEANWHILE

BJP gets free run on Left pitch – expanding the national consensus against injustice and mismanagement in Bengal too ?!!

BJP flags on bandh emptied Howrah Bridge on Monday - Bengal in for 'justice driven' non-parochial harmony too ?!! (Photo by Pradip Sanyal)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ZEESHAN JAWED

Calcutta, July 5: The flag that fluttered over India’s bandh capital changed colours for a few hours today.

The BJP’s saffron-and-green flag was a noticeable presence during the bandh in Calcutta, where the party’s protest calls used to elicit response only in a few pockets.

But the CPM call for the strike, following which the BJP announced its own “separate” hartal, gave the latter an opportunity to flex its muscles and claim gains to its base.

Abhijeet Chatterjee was taken by surprise this morning when around 50 protesters stopped his car at the VIP Road-Baguiati crossing. “I knew that the red-flag brigade could stop me. But I never expected people carrying saffron flags to accost me,” said the 39-year-old banker.

MEANWHILE: Sikkim, the only State in India, never to have participated in any strike in its history since 1975 - to always remain on a fantastic and clear - "NO STRIKES" culture, sincerely hope so !! (Photo by Prabin Khaling)

While the supporters of the Left parties preferred to lie low, the BJP borrowed almost every trick from the pioneer’s book. Chatterjee said the bandh supporters kept pounding his car’s bonnet. He realised they meant business when the windscreen of a truck was smashed. “I apologised and went home.”

BJP supporters gheraoed Tollygunge police station after one of them was arrested for deflating the tyre of a car on SP Mukherjee Road. “Our support base in the state is increasing,” said state BJP president Rahul Sinha.

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