Darjeeling: Renowned for their role in producing the world-renowned Darjeeling tea, the diligent tea workers in the scenic enclaves of Darjeeling and Kalimpong find themselves grappling with a persistent issue – the acquisition of their Puja bonuses.
Darjeeling Member of Parliament, Raju Bista, expressed concern regarding the perennial challenges faced by the tea labour force in these regions.
“Since 2017, they have been grappling to obtain their statutory entitlements. This, in my view, is fundamentally unjust,” he lamented.
Dashain, a festive occasion, marks the solitary instance in the year when these tireless labourers can reunite with their families and unwind. The absence of proper bonus payments only compounds the financial, emotional, and psychological burdens endured by the workers and their families.
Bista underlined the fact that tea workers in the Darjeeling region already receive modest wages, rendering bonuses of less than 20% grossly inequitable. As Dashain celebrations continue, workers still await their bonus payments, a situation Bista finds indefensible.
Furthermore, Bista criticised the West Bengal government for its apparent indifference, particularly the inaction of the Labor Department in addressing this issue. He made a direct appeal to tea garden owners to respond to the workers’ demand for a 20% bonus.
“The prosperity of the tea industry is intricately linked to ensuring the well-being of its workforce,” Bista stressed. He extended his plea to industry leaders and state government officials to resolve the bonus predicament in favour of the workers.
Bista also reiterated his willingness to facilitate discussions aimed at resolving the existing differences and concerns between the workers and tea garden owners, with the objective of securing a brighter future for the tea industry and all its stakeholders.
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The MP also highlighted the decision of tea gardens in Dooars to concede to a 19% bonus, underscoring the need for the West Bengal government and the Darjeeling Planters’ Association to swiftly concur with a 20% bonus rate for hill tea garden workers.
As the tea season progresses, labourers in Darjeeling and Kalimpong fervently hope that their appeal for fair bonuses will not go unheeded, and that the “Champagne of Tea” continues to be crafted with dignity and respect for those who labour to share its exquisite taste with the world.
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