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Tea workers, unions set for Siliguri rally

Statesman News Service | Siliguri |

Hundreds of tea workers and several leaders associated with over 23 trade unions under the banner of the Joint Forum are scheduled to stage a demonstration at Noukaghat near Uttarkanya and serve a four-point memorandum to the Commissioner of Jalpaiguri Division, Barun Ray, at the government’s branch secretariat here on Thursday.

Mr Ray is also the principal secretary of the North Bengal Development department. Keeping in view the Forum’s ‘Uttarkanya march,’ security has been beefed up in and around the government secretariat for north Bengal. The Siliguri Metropolitan Police have made elaborate police arrangements from Naukaghat to Uttarkanya via Tinbatti More.

Sources said that the police will not allow the protesters to march from Naukaghat to Uttarkanya. Police apprehend that traffic may come to a halt on Bardhaman Road, SF Road and the Asian Highway-II. To ease traffic congestion, the police have asked Joint Forum leaders to stage the demonstration in a vacant plot of land near Noukaghat.

Only some leaders will be allowed to serve the memorandum to the Commissioner around 2 pm tomorrow. One of the members of the Joint Forum, Aloke Chakravorty, said the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM)-backed trade union leadership, trade union leadership associated with the Jan Andolan Party, formed by the former MLA from Kalimpong Harka Bahadur Chhetri, hundreds of tea workers from Mirik, Terai, Dooars and even from Chopra in north Dinajpur will be joining the rally here.

According to Mr Chakravorty, the Forum will demand implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in tea gardens, monetary value for ration that used to be earlier given by the plantations, which is due since the implementation of the National Food Security Act in tea plantations in Feb 2016. “The state should take initiatives to add the value of the ration to workers’ wages,” he said.

The Forum has also demanded concrete decisions on closed tea estates and that the state should take proper decisions to provide land rights to workers in tea plantations.