Tea production in northern West Bengal, home of the world famous Darjeeling tea, was badly hit on Tuesday as majority of the tea gardens remained shut on the second day of the strike called by trade unions.
A joint forum of 24 trade unions of the tea industry in North Bengal have resorted to a two-day industrial strike, demanding implementation of minimum wages, reinforcement of entitlement for tea workers and distribution of land holding among tea workers for residential purposes.
According to industry experts, the strike severely affected work at 300 tea gardens in North Bengal, including 87 in Darjeeling.
Experts said the Darjeeling tea industry is expected to face a loss of more than Rs 10 crore in the two-day strike.
"No work has been reported in the tea gardens of Darjeeling for the second day. This has hit production of around 85,000 kg of Darjeeling tea a day. This is a huge loss," Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) Principal Advisor Sandip Mukherjee said.
Such disruption will have an adverse effect on the export market, Mukherjee added.
Indian Tea Association Secretary General Arijit Raha said the strike would have a negative impact on production and quality as the tea harvesting season is on.
State General Secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Anandi Sahu said: "The trade unions will intensify their movement unless the state government declares the minimum wage. More than 90-95 per cent of the four lakh tea workers in North Bengal have joined the strike. They will continue to protest unless and until their demand is addressed."
The forum also called for a 12-hour general strike on Tuesday in the tea garden-based areas of West Bengal, like Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Alipurduar, Islampur and Mekhliganj.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha — which has called for an indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling and Kalimpong from Monday demanding a separate Gorkhaland state – has also supported the tea workers' strike.
However, the All India Trinamool Trade Union Congress — backed by the Trinamool Congress — has opposed the strike.