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7 Jul 2018

Morcha out of tea forum strike

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Jul 07, 2018, Darjeeling: Joint Forum, a conglomeration of 24 tea trade unions from north Bengal except those aligned to Trinamul, has received a jolt with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's union saying it would not use the group's banner or join its agitation for wages.

The conglomeration had decided to organise gate meetings across north Bengal for three days from July 2, followed by a three-day strike in the gardens of Dooars and Terai later this month to demand minimum wages for tea workers.

Sources, however, maintain that the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, the tea wing of the Morcha, did not participate in the meetings.

An insider of the Morcha said: "We did not participate in gate meetings and we do not want to use the Joint Forum banner. If they want to participate in our programmes under our banner, they are most welcome."

Explaining the party's stand, the insider said: "Our party has not adopted a resolution to exit from the forum but we do not want to participate in any agitations in the hills. Moreover, we felt that the Left Front and Congress and other parties, which do not have any existence in the hills, are trying to direct the forum and set up their own base."

The leader said that they would work with other tea trade unions on the issues "like finalising charter of demands of workers" but they would not be using the Joint Forum banner.

Ziaur Alam, convener, Joint Forum and a CPM leader said: "There was unity among all hill trade unions and this could be seen during our meeting in Darjeeling on June 19. Only July 4, Morcha leaders told us that they were not organising gate meetings because of problems within the party but they told us that they would extend moral support to our agitation."

The Morcha leader said that since the matter was being discussed with the state government and planters, it made little sense by "shouting at the garden managers".

The office of the Joint Labour Commissioner (North Bengal zone) has issued a written appeal to all unions to withdraw their agitation now that a meeting of the Minimum Wages Advisory Committee has been fixed in Calcutta on July 12 followed by another tripartite meeting at Siliguri on July 17.

Sandeep Mukerjee, principal adviser of the Darjeeling Tea Association and a member of the committee, said:

"The Darjeeling tea industry is under pressure because of last year's agitation as the confidence of Darjeeling tea buyers has been shaken. The industry heavily depends on export orders."

"Further agitation would compound the situation without yielding any tangible results on ground other than vitiating the peaceful atmosphere which is detrimental to the worker and their family," said Mukherjee

Gurung audio

Roshan Giri, an aide of former Morcha chief Bimal Gurung, on Friday uploaded a message of the leader on social media in which he has appealed to all hill parties to come together on a "common platform to take forward" the Gorkhaland demand.

The immediate trigger seems to be the Union home minister's decision to hold a meeting with the proponents of a Bodoland state in Assam.

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