Bandh call for 20% puja bonus demand in hills

Bandh call for 20% puja bonus
Thu, Oct 3, 2019

Our Correspondent
The trade unions here in the hills have called a 12-hour bandh in the hills this Friday to press for their demand of 20% puja bonus for the tea garden workers.
Five rounds of bipartite negotiations between the unions and tea garden management on puja bonus were inconclusive. The State government made an intervention with a tripartite meeting at Kolkata on September 30 which also failed to break the deadlock.
It was decided at Kolkata that the next meeting would be held after Dashain festival.
“We have different programmes from tomorrow with a rally and a hunger strike of the trade unions from 10 am to 6 pm. We will also make a round of the town area appealing to businessmen and vehicle drivers to support the tea garden workers by observing a bandh on October 4 for 12 hours,” said Karuna Gurung.
Gurung is the president of Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union (DTDPLU) affiliated to the Binoy Tamang faction of the GJM party.
“Leave alone bonus, garden workers and staffs have not got even their wage and salaries even though the Durga Puja festival is just around the corner,” she added.
Regarding the past statements of the Morcha not to allow bandh in the hills, Gurung said: “Times and circumstances change and we have to adapt accordingly. Yes, our party heads did say no to bandh. But this bandh is for the workers of tea garden who are being denied their rights”.
Meanwhile, the unit-level leaders will sit for a two-day relay hunger strike in their respective tea gardens.
“We have asked our unit-level leaders to sit for hunger strike in front of the office of their respective tea garden offices,” said the DTDPLU president.
The Himalayan Plantation Workers Union general secretary S.K. Lama said: “We are appealing for the 12-hour bandh to be held in Darjeeling, Mirik and Kurseong only. On that day we are also asking the tea garden workers to take mass leave to show that they are donating their wages to the owners as they have been claiming that they do not have funds.”
Presently, there are seven trade unions that have come in this common platform. They also held a rally and a public meeting here at Darjeeling after which they declared their programmes after an indoor meeting.
The leaders of the different trade unions welcomed the announcement of the GJM leader Binay Tamang to go on an indefinite hunger strike from October 6, if the bonus issue is not settled.
Meanwhile, Tamang issued a press statement stating that he had strongly raised the demand of 20% puja bonus during the tea advisory council meeting at Kolkata on October 1. I have also informed the government that there were absolutely no political disturbances in the hills in 2018-19 and as such, there is no reason for the tea garden owners to deny the desired bonus, he said.

Area: 7096 Sq Km
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min – 13°C
Winter: Max -13°C ; Min – 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi