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GNLF to close down tea gardens

Wednesday, Mar 25, 2020 12:50 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Mar 25, 2020 12:50 [IST]

GNLF to close down tea gardens

Our Correspondent
DARJEELING: With tea gardens still to be closed while the government declared lockdown is being followed all over, the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) Tuesday maintained that their trade union would close down all tea gardens in the hills from Wednesday.
Trade unions in the hills along with others have been demanding that tea gardens be closed to contain the spread of the coronavirus including the Gorkhaland Territorial Chairman Anit Thapa who today also maintained that a Chairman Relief fund is being made especially keeping in mind the wages of tea garden workers in case of a lockdown in tea gardens.
“Our government has prohibited assembling of more than seven people but we see that our tea garden workers have to go to work. We understand it's the first flush but we have to give priority to our health first," said Ajay Edwards, the GNLF Darjeeling subdivision president.
“We had appealed to the owners that the tea garden be closed but till now no response has come. We along with our trade union have decided that we will close down tea gardens from tomorrow and ask workers not to go to work,” said Edwards adding that the wages of the tea garden workers should however be provided.
GTA chairman Anit Thapa too had yesterday written to the Darjeeling Tea Association to close the tea gardens fearing workers’ health.
“Our demand is that the tea gardens should be closed for which discussions are going on between the owners. We also however have to be practical as wages also should be given to the workers even if the gardens are closed. We cannot wait for the owners and the government and have to act also for which we will be starting the Chairman Relief Fund for which we appeal to the businessmen, contractors and others to donate. This relief fund will remain transparent and focus will be given to wages for the tea garden workers," he said adding that he will contribute his six months’ salary to the relief fund.
Masks will also be distributed in tea gardens by the GTA along with a notification to be out to convert the GTA community halls in the gardens to quarantine centres.
The Joint Forum, an umbrella organization of trade unions, have also been demanding that tea gardens be closed along with wages be given for that period.
The Darjeeling Tea Association, which represents the maximum number of tea garden owners in the hills, said the request for suspending plucking of tea leaves have been placed before the government.
“The tea industry is committed to fight the national crisis together. We are taking all the steps to prevent and protect the workers. We have forwarded the request to the government which has implications in the whole State of Bengal and beyond and we will abide by the government's decision in this matter," said Sandeep Mukherjee, principal advisor to the DTA.
Meanwhile, on the first day of the government-declared lockdown, all business establishments and restaurants remained closed from morning. However, vegetable markets and grocery shops remained open as per government directives. On many locations, police were compelled to appeal to straying citizens both walking and on vehicles, many of whom without a mask to take precautions and stay home if they had no important work.

Sikkim at a Glance

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