Darjeeling’s BJP MP Raju Bista has urged the Union Government to take necessary action for granting Parja Patta (deed of land rights) to workers associated with tea plantations and cinchona gardens in the Terai, Dooars and the Hills in Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Speaking under Rule 377 in Parliament today, Mr Bista drew the attention of the House to the 171st report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, titled “Issues affecting the Indian tea industry, especially in the Darjeeling region.” He informed the House that the Committee has found serious problems afflicting the tea industry in the Darjeeling Hills, Terai and Dooars region. “Main among them being the denial of Parja Patta land rights for the workers, who have toiled in these gardens for generations,” he added.
“The Committee notes with dismay the plight and deprivation of the tea workers and deplores the feudalistic set-up in the region to alienate tea workers from their basic land rights despite seven decades of independence,” Mr Bista said, quoting the committee’s note. “The perpetual struggle of tea workers to seek rights for their own lands not only for living but even for burying their dead family members is unfortunate and saddening”, he said. “A specific legislation needs to be enacted which recognizes the rights and ownership of tea workers to their ancestral lands and resources,” Mr Bista pointed out to the Committee’s report as saying. “I therefore requested the Union Government to enact a law which will guarantee Parja Patta rights for our Tea and Cinchona workers through the enactment of the Plantation Rights Act, on the lines of Forest Rights Act (2006) to ensure justice for tea and cinchona garden workers,” Mr Bista, also the BJP’s spokesperson, told the media.
It may be noted here that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during her visit to Darjeeling recently, asked her government’s chief secretary to do the needful so that tea workers, who practically live in small quarters on leasehold land provided by planters, can build separate rooms and operate home-stays for tourists as part of the tea tourism plans. Showcasing the issue of land rights for the workers, the BJP leader and MP, Mr Bista has criticised Miss Banerjee’s statements on the matter. “The TMC government in West Bengal may try and continue to deny our families their right to Parja Patta, and I know our struggle for justice will be long, but I am also confident that with all of your support and solidarity, we will prevail and our sisters and brothers who toil in the tea gardens and cinchona gardens will have the Parja Patta of their lands granted to them,” the MP said today