Even after six months of Diwali, festival bonuses have still not been handed out to Darjeeling tea workers. If the dispute is not settled by 10th March, it may result in major turmoil that can ruin the forthcoming output.
Trade unions are willing to take it to another level. “We will have to go in for a field-level movement,” said Saman Pathak, Darjeeling district CITU Secretary and a major functionary in the multi-party tea workers’ conglomeration.
State labor minister Maloy Ghatak has urged all gardens to clear bonus payments by 10th March at a recent meeting. Owners of the plantation farms had said that it is going to be difficult to adhere to that timeline. “We are in too tight a financial situation to comply despite all our positive intentions. The political crisis caused us huge losses during the peak period,” said a veteran planter who doesn’t want to be named.
He was talking about the 104-day bandh in the hills that began on last June because of a political tussle between Gorkha Janamukti Morcha and Trinamool Congress. Indian Tea Board had said that production has decreased to 10% while the band was on.