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18 Feb 2017

Land grab bid slur on Morcha leaders

Bansal speaks to the media in Siliguri on Friday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT, Siliguri, Feb. 17: The owner of Simulbarie Tea Estate near Sukna today accused a section of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders of trying to grab a portion of the garden land and sell it for money.

The management had announced suspension of work in the garden last month after some labourers resisted the planting of tea saplings on 20 acres of vacant land. They opposed the planting of saplings, saying they had been cultivating vegetables on the land for years.
M.P. Bansal, the owner of Simulbarie estate, told a a news conference here this afternoon that Morcha leaders were behind the workers' resistance.
"A section of Morcha leaders of Sukna and adjoining areas, like Tshering Dahal (the co-ordinator of the Terai committee of the hill party) are orchestrating the protests. They are trying to grab a portion of the garden's land and want to sell it illegally and make money. They have also incited some workers' families in the garden and they have time and again stopped us from undertaking tea planting in the vacant stretches of land," Bansal said.
The estate is around 20km from here.
Of late, it has been noticed that colonies have mushroomed in the vacant stretches of two tea gardens in Naxalbari and Matigara blocks. Houses and shops were built on the land leased out to companies for tea plantation. "In both the cases, involvement of local politicians has been found," said an administrative official said.
Bansal wrote to the chief secretary on February 15, seeking the state government's intervention. "If the government doesn't take strict action against these people, land mafias in other parts of north Bengal might feel emboldened to grab the leasehold land of tea estates," U.B Das, the secretary of Terai Indian Planters' Association, who was with Bansal at the news conference, said.
Morcha leader Dahal has denied Bansal's allegations.
"I have stood by the labourers of Simulbarie estate as a social worker. The incident has nothing to do with the Morcha. Those who undertake farming on the vacant land of the garden had been asked to move away suddenly. This cannot be allowed," said Dahal.

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