Tea garden workers in North Bengal on Tuesday launched a movement demanding their wages.
Demonetisation has affected the tea gardens very badly and most of the workers are nearly starving. For the past three weeks they have been suffering and no one knows till how long they will have to suffer.
It may be recalled that the state government had requested the Reserve Bank of India to provide adequate money to the District Magistrates so that wages could be given to workers and labourers. But no assurance was given from the officials of RBI who met the chief secretary Basudeb Banerjee recently.
State Tourism minister Goutam Deb joined the protest rally organised by the tea garden workers of Merry View and Atal tea gardens. There are 2,000 employees in these two tea gardens and of these employees, majority do not have bank accounts. As a result, they are not getting their wages for the past three weeks.
Deb said that the hasty decision of the Centre to demonetise high value notes had affected tea garden workers very badly.
“They have no money to buy food and essential commodities. The tea garden owners also face crisis as they cannot withdraw money from the bank and pay wages to the workers. Moreover, due to shortage of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes, the banks are running out cash. It is a peculiar situation and it is really difficult to understand the problem of tea garden workers unless someone has visited the place,” he said.
Last week, tea garden workers of Tarai and Dooars did not work for an hour as a mark of protest. They demanded the managers of different tea estates to pay their wages. Trinamool Congress leaders were present to extend their support.
“The situation is turning from bad to worse every day and if this continues, anything may happen any day,” Deb remarked.
For the past three weeks, the wholesale markets in Posta and Garanhata are virtually dry. The wholesale fish markets in Manicktala and Dum Dum have been badly hit as there are few retail traders. “We do not have money and if this continues for another 5 to 10 days, many fish traders will be forced to commit suicide as they are unable to pay the moneylenders who are imposing interest every day,” said Sobol Ghosh, a wholesale fish trader.
On Tuesday, Bengal food minister Jyotipriyo Mullick said the demonetisation was taking a heavy toll on paddy procurement in the state and would cause a severe food crisis in days to come.
“Last year around this time we had completed near about 50 per cent paddy procurement. But this time only 23 per cent has been done. The reason is that farmers are unable to reap the paddy. They don’t have the money to pay the labourers as they take their payments in cash,” Mullick said.