The CPI-M has appealed to tea workers of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts to keep in mind the ‘principal’ demand for implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in the tea sector and vote accordingly in the upcoming three-tier rural elections.
The party also appealed to the Nepali-speaking population to not fall into the “trap laid by the ruling Trinamul Congress and BJP”, as, according to it, both the parties betrayed them and used them as mere vote bank.
“We appeal to the tea workers to remain united and give their mandates in favour of the Left Front or Left-backed independent candidates. The demand for the Minimum Wages Act should be the principal issue in the rural polls. There is also the demand for giving tea workers their land rights,” said Siliguri mayor and MLA Asok Bhattacharya.
Joint Forum, an umbrella body of tea trade unions of different political parties except for the Trinamul Congress, has been spearheading a movement for minimum wages in the tea plantations. Mr Bhattacharya said that unlike the various districts of south Bengal, there may not be large-scale violence over filing of nomination papers in north Bengal, “but Left Front candidates are being threatened by the ruling party.”
Mr Bhattacharya, who is also a former state urban development minister, said his party also appeals to the Nepali speaking communities in the Dooars, the tribals, and the Rajbansi community to not fall in the ‘Trinamul-BJP trap.’
“We have seen how Bimal Gurung was used by both the parties to secure their vote bank. Those parties have betrayed them. The state government has placed Binoy Tamang at the helm of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) for its own interests. No democratic norms are being followed, while there were reports of rampant corruption in the GTA and different development councils. Such tactics are followed by keeping in mind the vote bank. We strongly condemn this. We appeal to the Nepali-speaking people, tribals, and Rajbansis to take a rational and logical stand for the interest of the communities in the rural polls,” he added.
The senior Marxist leader also demanded “highest level” investigations into corruption in the Hills. He said there were reports of corruption on some issues, including awarding contracts for project work, and selection of such work. “We want the GTA to be transparent,” Mr Bhattacharya said.
Talking about preparations for the rural polls in the Dabgram- Fulbari Assembly constituency, Darjeeling district Left Front convener Jibesh Sarkar said the party will support some ‘eligible’ Independent candidates in four gram panchayats (GP)–Dabgram-I and II and Fulbari-I and II (82 seats).
“Our candidates in all the GPs, 11 panchayat samitis and one zilla parishad in the constituency will contest to defeat the undemocratic forces despite various obstructions. They would not surrender before any threat,” Mr Sarkar said.