Follow Us:

Tea workers now set to seek land rights

Statesman News Service | Siliguri |

Tea workers in the north Bengal tea belt, comprising the Terai, the Dooars, the Hills of Darjeeling and Kilimpong and even the non-traditional tea belt in North Dinajpur and Cooch Behar districts, plan to raise a demand for grant of land rights very soon. Leaders of Joint Forum, a conglomeration of 23 trade unions working in tea gardens, took the decision after serving a memorandum to the Commissioner, Jalpaiguri Division, Barun Ray, at Uttarkanya here on Wednesday.

Hundreds of tea workers staged a demonstration here yesterday, demanding implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in the tea industry. Many tea workers, mainly in the Hills, the Terai, and the Dooars have been demanding land rights for some time. While Adivasi people in many tea estates in the Terai and the Dooars have been demanding land rights (Patta), tea workers in Mirik, Kurseong and Darjeeling have also been demanding deeds for the land on which they have been living for the past several years.

Notably, a section of the tea workers in Mirik had decided to support the Trinamul Congress after chief minister Mamata Banerjee, during the civic body election campaign, assured that the government would resolve the problem of land rights there.

According to official sources, the state government has already informed planters that it would acquire any land that now lies idle. The state has also informed the planters that leasehold land should be utilised properly either by planting tea or implementing other prescribed projects, including horticulture.

During the interaction with the Jalpaiguri Division Commissioner, yesterday, Joint Forum leaders urged him to initiate the process of providing household land rights to the landless poor residents in tea plantation areas. “Having no household land of their own, the poverty- stricken residents of tea gardens are facing a myriad of problems when it comes to availing of the different government welfare projects.

The issue of household land rights of tea garden residents is becoming an important factor as they try to live secured and dignified lives,” the Forum pointed out.

The spokesperson of the Joint Forum, Ziaul Alam, said: “Despite the over century-old settlement of the most socioeconomically weak section, especially the tribal people, in tea plantations, the families there are yet to have household land rights.” “The Commissioner has suggested how we should go about demanding the land rights. The tea workers will start applying to appropriate authorities demanding such rights,” he added.