DARJEELING 20 Aug 2018 The Bimal Gurung camp of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has sided with the Joint Forum on the issue of minimum wages for tea garden workers in West Bengal. On Monday, Roshan Giri, till the other day the all-powerful general secretary of GJM, in an audio message extended support to the JF, a a conglomoration of trade unions, and demanded the minimum wage of garden workers be fixed at Rs.353 including all fringe benefits.
|Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri - file photo|
It may be mentioned that though fugitive leaders of the Bimal Gurung camp are on the run but they are ensuring that their presence is felt in the hills by issuing Press statements and audio messages in social media sites.
Giri in his message said garden workers had always had to face suppression and denied even basic rights. “If we look a the history of the tea gardens in the hills one will find that it is heaped in atrocities, suppression and exploitation. From the year 1947 till 2007 the condition of the tea gardens had not been good. The daily wage of the workers were Rs.62.50. However after the GJM was formed in 2007, we took up the issue sincrely ans managed to hike it to Rs.132. Now we want that the minimum wage be fixed at R.353," he said from an undisclosed location.
The fugitive leader cited examples of the Sikkim and Tamil Nadu governments which were working for the welfare of the workers and asked the Bengal to adopt similar policies. “The tea from Sikkim and Tamil Nadu are not so popular, yet workers there are getting good daily wages. But the same cannot be said about Bengal and Assam whose tra are renowned. In Assam the workers though are getting slightly better wages at Rs.170. Including fringe benefits the wages stands at around Rs.255 to Rs.260. We have learnt that the Assam government is set to increase it to Rs.324 to Rs.325. Wage negotiatilns are in progress there," Giri said. At present workers of tea gardens in the hills of Darjeeling recieve Rs 159 as daily wages. It does not include other mandatory benefits.
Trade unions affiliated to the Joint Forum as also the GJM-backed unions which are not a member of the JF are demanding implementation of minimum wage. Joint forum memebrs in the hills are holding gate meetings in the tea gardens regularly to create pressure on the management and the State Government. However the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union (DTDPLU) affiliated to the GJM group led by Binoy Tamang and Anit Thapa are against creating disturbances and have decided to distance themselves from the movement of the Joint Forum.
Giri however alleged the “rebel” GJM leaders --- meaning thereby the present official group led by Binoy Tamang and Anit Thapa --- had compromised with the State Government for political gains. “Because of this the recent statehood agitation failed. Similarly, the movement of the tea garden workers are also being suppressed. But we will not give in and continue to struggle for Gorkhaland and rights of the workers," he said. Giri also said that his camp supported the JF's democratic agitation and would continue to do so in future.