Kolkata: Around 200 tea garden workers under the banner of a TMC union held a sit-in at an estate in north Bengal on Saturday, alleging that there has been “no visible sign” of spending of the Centre’s package announced two years ago.
The demonstrators also demanded immediate steps by authorities of the tea garden in Kalchini to ensure that they are not deprived of post-retirement benefits.
The agitators also sought scholarships and stipends for their children as promised by the tea garden management earlier.
The demonstrators wanted to know “what happened to Rs 1,000 crore package announced by the central government in Parliament for tea garden workers of Assam and West Bengal.
“There has been no visible sign of spending of even a fraction of the proposed amount for the welfare of tea garden workers,” a union leader said.
During her budget speech for the 2021-22 fiscal, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed Rs 1,000 crore for the welfare of tea workers, especially women and their children, in Assam and West Bengal.
“One person from each family works as a plantation labourer in the garden till the age of 58 years. This should be raised to 60 and made mandatory. This is one of the several demands flagged by us,” Kalchini’s TMC union leader Vivek Chhetri claimed.
The plight of tea garden workers is “worsening but the Centre is not taking any action to revive the sector”, he alleged.
“The economic dues of tea workers are mounting. But neither the Centre nor garden owners are taking steps. The state government is trying to provide aid to workers with its minimal resources,” Chhetri said.
Responding to the union leader’s allegation, BJP MLA from Siliguri Shankar Ghosh said the state government is “not doing anything to improve the condition of tea garden workers”.
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“Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announces sops during election campaigns in north Bengal but these are not translated into action. The ruling party is doing politics with the condition of tea garden workers. But their game plan will not succeed,” he said.
TMC leaders should explain “why the central allocation for different projects is not reaching out to the poor”, he added.
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