Non receipt of wages: Workers of 10 tea estates stage stir in Darjeeling

DARJEELING: Workers of ten tea estates under the Darjeeling Organic Tea Estates Pvt. Ltd (DOTEPL) formerly popular as the Bansal Group, are on an agitation path for not having been paid wages for the past two months, along with other benefits. On Monday, they initiated a 5-day long "Dharna" (sit in protest) in front of the District Magistrate's office in Darjeeling.

"Within five days if the company fails to pay the wages of the workers, the Government has to cancel the lease of the gardens. If the Government fails to do so, we will run the gardens through a cooperative," stated Anit Thapa, President, Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM.) The BGPM affiliate Himalayan Terai Dooars Plantation Workers Union is leading the agitation.

He stated that he will personally take responsibility for the admission of Madhayamik and Higher Secondary pass out students whose parents are workers of these ten gardens.

"There are more than 13000 direct workers in the 10 gardens and around 40000 dependents including family members. The workers have not received wages for the past two months. Since the past 5 years workers' Provident Fund and Gratuity have not been deposited. Why do we have to beg for what is rightfully ours?" questioned JB Tamang, DTPWU leader.

The union leaders met S. Ponnambalam, District Magistrate, Darjeeling, with the demands.

"Earlier too we have had meetings with the Management. They are defaulters. We are constantly pressuring them to immediately release the wages. The workers also requested if some relief can be given from the Tea Garden Relief fund of the GTA. I have informed them that the new GTA Sabha that will be constituted after the GTA elections will take the decision," stated Poonambalam who is also the Administrator of the GTA.

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