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15 Jun 2017

TMC eyes hill brew belt - Success of tea garden strike wakes up ruling party

AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Siliguri, June 14: Trinamul leaders in the Darjeeling hills have decided to focus on tea gardens where the party's trade union is weak and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha enjoys total hegemony.
The ruling party of the state has woken up to the need for a strong base in the brew belt of the hills following the total success of a strike by non-Trinamul trade unions in the tea gardens of the hills.
The strike called by the Joint Forum - an apex body of 24 unions, including that of the Morcha - failed to create much impact in the plains.
"We have developed bases in the hills, but mostly in urban and non-tea garden areas. Our supporters are present in some tea estates in Mirik and Kurseong subdivisions but we need to cement our base in all tea gardens in the hills," a senior Trinamul leader in Kurseong said.
When the GNLF's writ ran in the hills, the Himalayan Plantation Workers' Union of the party had complete control over tea gardens.
"As the baton of power went to the Morcha's hand, the workforce switched to the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, floated by Bimal Gurung's party. Even though Trinamul has managed to tiptoe into the hills and could secure support in some areas, its trade union is still not a force to be reckoned with," an observer said.
"Rapid changes in the political situation in the hills of late also contributed to the complete shutdown of tea gardens in the past two days. As the strike was called to protest against the delay on the part of the state in fixing minimum wages for tea garden workers, the Morcha leadership took no time in lending support to it," an observer said.
The Trinamul leader said its office-bearers and trade unions would be galvanised to find a toehold for the party in the brew belt of the hills.
"During her last week to the hills, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said the state government was in favour of holding GTA elections in due time and her party would vie for seats. So, its imperative for Trinamul to attract tea garden workers to the party," he said.
Tea garden workers and their families form a major portion of population in the hills.

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