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Tea gardens shut down in Hills

Tea gardens shut down in Hills

Darjeeling: The tea gardens in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong Hills were shut down from Thursday. However, majority of the tea gardens in the plains of North Bengal continue to function.

There was a lot of confusion regarding the fate of tea gardens in North Bengal during the ongoing lockdown. Trade Unions, NGOs and even the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) had demanded the closure of tea gardens and paid leave for the workers, owing to the COVID-19 threat.

There are 283 gardens in North Bengal spanning across the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar in North Bengal and employ the largest workforce of the region.

The huge workforce standing at around 350,000 workers of the tea gardens and factories has given rise to the fear of a major outbreak and high chances of contamination which could spread like wildfire.

On Thursday, the state government order issued by the Chief Secretary on March 24 declaring a lockdown till March 31 was invoked by the district administration, to close down the gardens.

"The tea gardens are finally closed. We thank the owners of the tea gardens for their concern. I appeal to the tea garden workers to stay at home and practice social distancing. People who are returning to the tea gardens must go on compulsory self-quarantine at home for 14 days. I appeal to the people of the GTA region to come forward and help the tea garden workers by donating generously to the GTA chairman's Relief Fund," stated Anit Thapa, chairman, GTA.

He thanked other political parties and the civil society for raising concern regarding the tea garden workers. "We also feel for the tea garden owners who will face losses owing to the closure as this is the plucking season of the premium first flush," added Thapa.

The first flush is largely exported and economically sustains the gardens throughout the year. There are 87 gardens in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong Hills with a workforce of around 70,000.

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