Various terms are used to make the tourism-based out of tea gardens sound romantic - 'Heritage Tea Tourism" though is the most popular. Not many bother to ask whose heritage?
These days the companies that own tea gardens are also running exorbitantly priced tourism operations. Without any of the benefits trickling down to the actual tea garden workers. They have no share in profit earnings from the tea gardens or the tourism that is run in their backyard.
The subversion of tea gardens, into a tourism hub has been very subtle and on the very sly. There is no provision under the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953, for such subversions of tea garden lands. The act specifically specifies that "the land can only be leased out for tea cultivation. The lessee or the company, without reducing the plantation area, may use the land for horticulture and growing medicinal plants on an area not more than 3 percent of the total grant area of the garden."
Yet numerous tea companies are running tourism activities, with whose permission?
Look at this, a one night stay for an individual at Glenburn Tea Estate costs roughly Rs 25000 per night. Yes, it includes food and transport and other facilities for the guest.
But do a rough math.
To be able to afford to stay ONE NIGHT at Glenburn Tea Tourism resort and enjoy the associated facilities, a tea garden worker from Glenburn has to work for 188 days - over 6 months, (assuming s/he can save all her/his wages during that time).
IS IT FAIR?
The tea garden workers are only asking for the implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in the tea gardens of Darjeeling and Dooars. All of your support is needed.