'Allow tea estate workers to use their houses as homestays'

Allow tea estate workers to use their houses as homestays

DARJEELING: There have been appeals from different quarters, both political and apolitical, to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to allow workers and their dependents to run homestays from their residences in tea gardens, as an alternative source of income.

Anit Thapa, President, Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM,) wrote a letter to the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with this request on Tuesday. The Association for Conservation and Tourism (ACT) has requested that NOCs be provided to interested persons residing in tea gardens, cinchona plantations and forest villages, to operate home stays.

"It is requested that the Government duly form a policy under the purview of the existing policy of 2019 that facilitates the tea garden workers with the permission to operate home stays at their own homes of habitual residences wherever feasible. Having given the priority to the workers and their dependents will pave the way for alternative source of income" stated the letter.

The letter further suggested that in relation to Tea Tourism and Allied Business Policy-2019, out of the 15 per cent of the total vacant land in tea gardens (stipulated for tourism) 40 per cent could be used for the development of the real estate and remaining 60 per cent could be developed for tea tourism.

"There is the issue of Land and Land Rights. Land being a State subject, I request your office to look into the policy and also ensure that not a single house, hamlet or village is uprooted or relocated in the name of development. When new resorts, development projects come up in the tea gardens the locals should get priority of employment" stated the letter.

North Bengal has around 283 tea gardens employing 3,50,000 permanent and casual workers. Tea estates operate on leased land from the State Government. The Tea Tourism and Allied Business Policy-2019, formulated by the West Bengal Government allows the use of 15 per cent of vacant land within the tea estate to be used for tourism purposes.

"It has been our long standing demand that workers be allowed to run homestays in their residences in the gardens. Most of the workers have been working since generations. The present generation are educated and most don't want to become tea pluckers. As they reside inside the tea estates, we have appealed to the District Magistrates of the concerned districts to issue NOCs to operate homestays in tea gardens. Similar NOCs should also be provided for cinchona plantations and forest villages" stated Raj Basu, Convenor, ACT. The organization had made similar appeals to the Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary, Tourism, Government of West Bengal, recently.

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