Showing posts with label Dooars and Terai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dooars and Terai. Show all posts

Darjeeling MP Raju Bista elected as a member of the Tea Board

5:16 PM
Darjeeling MP Raju Bista has been elected as one of the members of the Tea Board of India. When he was asked by a journalist about his further course of action after being elected, he responded as follows:

"As you are aware the Darjeeling Hills, Terai and Dooars along with neigbouring Assam produce some of the finest tea in the world, yet this industry is gradually dying.

Numerous gardens in our region have shut down, the tea garden workers and their families are suffering, and at the same time our tea industry is facing increasing competition internationally.

 My role will be to bring together all the stakeholders – workers, government, and industry representatives to develop a possible road map for the rights of the workers to be protected, rejuvenation of the tea industry in India, and create a healthy win-win situation for everyone.

I will be pushing for a comprehensive review of the Plantation Labours Act 1951, and implementation of the Minimum Wages Act. I am sure other members also share similar sentiments, so we will all work together to make this happen."

Rs.172 - Price of blood, sweat and life of a Tea garden worker in Gorkhaland!

12:28 PM
‘All wealth is the product of labor’- John Locke 

Tea plantations of Darjeeling, Dooars and Terai encompass the two extremes of human existence, the unimaginable opulence of Tea garden owners and the abject impoverishment of workers. Behind the idyllic hills, the scenic gardens, the “romance of the two leaves and a bud”, and the “smiling faces” of the workers, what remains carefully hidden is the ugly truth of sub-human wages, more than a thousand starvation deaths, and seething anger.
Tea workers in Gorkhaland

The ongoing wage negotiations for tea gardens in the Hills, Dooars & Terai has yet again brought to fore what the West Bengal government and the industry wishes to brush under the carpet. It is another manifestation of the complicity of the state in depriving the workers of their basic minimum level of sustenance. Darjeeling tea derived its value (even has its own Geographical Indication-GI mark) from its qualitative excellence and high exportability. Darjeeling, Dooars and Tarai produces one of finest and most sought after tea in the international market (Iran, Japan, UK, Russia, UAE). Such is the demand for Darjeeling tea that in the year 2016 the finest quality of Darjeeling tea was sold at Rs 1.12 lakh per kg. Tea industry makes valuable contribution to both Central and State Government coffers by way of different Central and State taxes. The West Bengal State enjoys approximately 1500 crores of revenue generated from tea gardens annually along with the revenue from tea tourism, forest, hydel project etc. However, the contributions of the tea garden workers have been rewarded by hardship, struggle, denial of basic rights, untimely medical facilities, forced lockdown of tea gardens and starvation deaths. This perennial appalling condition has compelled the workers of 273 tea gardens to hit the streets and raise their voice for higher wages. Examining the closest history, the wage of workers’ was Rs.45 per day in 2001, Rs. 90 per day in 2010 and Rs.95 per day in 2011. After repeated pressure from workers trade unions, it was increased to Rs 132.50 in 2016. In February 2018, the wage was decided upon as Rs 150/day. However, following the disagreements and protests from the tea gardens workers trade unions, the planters agreed to increase the wage only to Rs 172 per day on 5th August 2018, which the workers have out rightly rejected.

How low is the wage rate in tea gardens?
First, workers of Darjeeling, Dooars, Tarai and Assam are paid the lowest wage among all tea plantations located in India. Eg. Tamil Nadu pays Rs. 303, Karnataka pays Rs 317 while Kerala pays Rs. 600 per day. Ironically tea produced from these locations are not much demanded in international market and fetches low price, even then the tea garden owners are able to pay decent wages more than that of Darjeeling. Secondly, wages of tea garden workers of Darjeeling, Dooars and Tarai is even lower than the government mandated minimum wages in similar occupations in West Bengal. The recently proposed wage rate by the planters and state government for the tea garden workers of Darjeeling, Dooars and Terai is Rs 172, which is even lower than minimum wage paid in Cinchona plantation located in the same region (Rs. 211), in Beedi leaf plucking (Rs. 255), in Agriculture (Rs 278). Thirdly, the money wage was Rs 90 in 2010 and it was proposed to be hiked to Rs 172 on 5th August, 2018. However, if we take into account the rising living expenses (due to rising prices over time-inflation), the real wage (what money wage is able to buy in terms of goods and services) hike is miniscule in terms of purchasing power. For e.g. the goods and services, which could be purchased using Rs. 90 in 2010, will cost Rs.141 in 2018. Even Rs.90 in 2010 was the lowest wage received by workers among workers in other industries during that time. This implies that workers until last year (Rs 132.5 in 2017) were not even getting wage, which could buy same amount of goods they used to buy with Rs. 90 in 2010. Similarly, Rs 172 of 2018 will only buy the same amount of goods what workers could have bought with Rs.109 in 2010. This means that the wage hike proposed by planters is very low if we take into account the rising daily expenses of tea garden workers. Workers are demanding Rs 239.82 as minimum wage, which is just equal to the purchasing power of Rs 152 of 2010. The minimum wage of Rs 239.82 is not even 40% of minimum wage of tea garden workers in Kerala. In an era where LPG refilling costs around Rs 1000, the tea garden workers are bound to survive on a monthly average income of Rs 5000. Since, tea garden is the main source of income for the families, it is beyond impossible to maintain a decent livelihood with such a minimum wage leading intergenerational poverty trap. Contrary to this deplorable condition of workers, the CEO of a tea company (Goodricke Group Limited, Annual Report, 2017-18) has a salary scale of Rs. 4-7 lakhs per month with additional Rs. 50,000 special allowance per month.
What do various reports say? Nearly 1500 tea plantation workers of Dooars and Terai have died due to starvation in the last ten years. According to the state government’s Labour Department Survey (2013) report, nearly Rs 47 crore rupees of provident fund was unpaid to workers in 75 tea gardens in 2013. Around 80% of the gardens had no medical staff and most of the gardens had no access to basic health facilities. The International Labour Organisation in its 2005 report clearly states that the Tea Board, which is the regulating authority of the Tea Industry, has failed to fulfill its stipulated function. They have continuously ignored wage and provident fund defaults of tea gardens, while portraying this crisis only as a marketing mismanagement. The ILO report also suspects that there is collusion between the planters and the State, which is highlighted by the non-implementation of the Tea Act, 1953. Studies show that 70% of the people of the closed tea gardens suffer from chronic energy deficiency III stage. The scale of deprivation and dispossession of livelihoods is such that the workers are forced to languish till they die of hunger and malnutrition. The Supreme Court’s order (dated 06.08.10) categorically asked the Government of India to carry out its statutory duty under Tea Act 1953. This allows the central government to take over the management/control of sick tea gardens (under section 16 B/D/E of the Act) and take steps thereafter to ensure that the interest of the workers are well protected and dues are all paid in time but such clauses never get invoked to protect the interest of the workers. Such low wages and exploitative conditions have resulted in large migration of workers from the tea estate. Human trafficking is also very rampant in the region. A report of a joint study by Unicef, Save the Children and Burdwan University (in 2010) estimates around 3,500 minors alone were trafficked from 12 gardens of Dooars alone.

We reject the recent offers by the Planters and Government of abysmally low wage hike from Rs.150 to Rs. 172.
We demand: 1. Declare and implement decent Minimum Wage for tea Plantation workers equivalent to that of state of Kerala 2. Grant legal ownership of land rights to workers 3. Reopen closed and abandoned tea estates immediately 4. Casual labour in tea gardens should be regularised as soon as possible 5. Backlog of unpaid provident fund and gratuity should be cleared immediately. We salute and stand in solidarity with the uncompromising struggle of workers for their rightful demand. Any attempt to break the unity of the workers or dilute the demands or betray the struggle must be resisted at all cost.

Gorkha Students, JNU Issued on 13/08/18


11:12 AM

Like GJM , GNLF too decided to support TMC at the upcoming Panchayat election in Dooars.After 21 days of GJM announcement to support TMC from Bagrakot.  GNLF too announced their support to TMC from Bagrakot yesterday.

Later GNLF president Mann Ghisingh, General Secretary Mahendra Chettri along with TMC leader Saurav Chakraborty , Mohan Sharma , MLA Buluchik Baraik held a joint press conference at Mal bazar. Speaking with the press Mahendra Chettri said GNLF keeping positive thought  has come forward to support TMC at the upcoming Panchayat election.

Chettri further said we have come to Dooars to keep our stand clear that at the upcoming Panchayat election GNLF will support TMC at Dooars. Chettri also claimed that they have a good support of gorkhas residing at Alipurduwar and Jalpaiguri district

Via C24

Darjeeling Likely to Witness Another Agitation

11:46 AM
Darjeeling Likely to Witness Another Agitation From May 1

In an interview given to the Himalayan Beacon, published on Tuesday, CITU has declared that they would be launching an agitation for the workers of Darjeeling, Terai and Duars from May 1. The agitation, however, will mostly focus on the demands of the tea garden and hotel workers. This can be perceived as an affront to the Darjeeling-based Binay Tamang-Anit Thapa faction of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). This faction had earlier declared that the hills will not witness any more strikes. However, the workers’ agitation will most probably be too prickly for the faction to handle, considering that they form the core base of voters in the hills.

As far as the tea garden workers are concerned CITU has three demands; that the workers be brought under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, that they should receive the ration money owed to them, and that they should receive land rights.

Tea gardens are not one of the Scheduled Employments in West Bengal under the Minimum Wages Act. The issue of the tea garden workers began in 2014 when they had agitated to be brought under the Minimum Wages Act. In 2015, a tripartite agreement was signed between the workers’ unions, the owners’ union and the West Bengal Government. The agreement stipulated a gradual increase in the minimum wage over a period of three years. In 2017 another meeting was called to revise the minimum wages agreed to in 2015, other than the Trinamool Congress affiliated unions, all the others stayed away in protest against the move. CITU in the interview has alleged that three years since the first agreement was signed, the workers are yet to receive the agreed minimum wages. This also ties into their demand that the ration money owed to workers be paid. As a result, they demand that the entire amount owed to the workers be paid, and that tea gardens also come under the Act.

The issue of land rights is another sore point. According to the CITU representative, the provisions of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, has not been extended to the tea garden workers. When the tea gardens were first established in Darjeeling, the colonial planters had secured large areas of forest which they converted into plantations. However, not all the area claimed by the gardens has been cleared. It is in these forested parts where the workers have established their homes. Thus generations of tea garden workers have lived on these lands. On this basis, after the 2006 Act came into force, the workers were entitled to hold title over the land on which they live.

The issues highlighted by the CITU representative for the hospitality industry workers focused on; wages for the period of the 2017 agitation, that benefits such as gratuity, provident fund, employees state insurance, and health insurance be extended to them and that they should be able to avail leave on government holidays. Here too, they had launched a movement in 2015, seeking that minimum wages be fixed based on the type ofestablishment – a small restaurant would pay less than a five-star hotel. The movement resulted in a bipartite agreement with the hotel owners’ association. However, the agreement has yet to be implemented. In this regard, the CITU representative has declared expanded demands for the hospitality industry workers.

The CITU representative also mentioned that though the agitation at present is focused on the plight of the tea garden and hospitality industry workers, the agitation would be for the rights of all the workers in the region. He specifically mentioned the hospital staff, construction workers and migrant workers in this regard. He also stated that the unions had submitted memorandums to the concerned owners and that the memorandums contained an ultimatum that unless their demands are met, they would launch an agitation from May 1 till the end of July. This point is significant since the agitation would cripple the tourism industry.

The Binay Tamang – Anit Thapa faction of the GJM has stated that they are pro-business and would not allow any agitations or strikes in the hills. However, they appear to have forgotten the origins of the GJM’s founder, Bimal Gurung. Gurung came from a family of tea garden workers. His residence and the nucleus of the GJM’s power lay in Patleybas, a notoriously poor and rough neighbourhood on the fringes of Darjeeling. One of Gurung’s most popular moves among the tea garden workers in the Darjeeling hills was in 2011 when he was able to secure a raise in their wages. Prior to his intervention, the workers were getting Rs. 67 per day, he was, however, able to raise it to Rs. 90. This worked out as an increase of around 34 percent. At present, the agitation that has been threatened seeks to raise this wage further.

Chances are that the Binay Tamang-Anit Thapa faction will intervene at least in the hills to prevent the agitation from taking place. In the Dooars and Terai, the Bimal Gurung faction still holds sway, it is unlikely that they would miss an opportunity to bring their rival faction down a peg. If the matter is not resolved by May 1, Darjeeling will lose another year of tourism revenue. However, this clearly appears to be a gamble the workers are willing to risk

GJM to support TMC in Dooars

7:15 AM

Darjeeling: In a major setback for the BJP, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Thursday announced its decision to forge an alliance with the Trinamool Congress in the forthcoming Panchayat elections, in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts. This comes on the heels of Kamtapur Progressive Party (KPP) also throwing its weight behind the TMC in Dooars for the rural polls. The day saw a core committee and working committee meeting of GJM at Bagrakote in Jalpaiguri, from where this new political equation has emerged.

"We have decided to forge an alliance with the TMC in the two districts of Dooars for the rural polls. We will support TMC candidates in some Panchayats and in our strongholds, we will field independent candidates. A four-member GJM team will be visiting Dooars soon, to negotiate with TMC on seat sharing," stated Suraj Sharma, GJM Spokesperson. GJM top brass, including president Binay Tamang, was present in the meeting. When questioned on why the GJM decided to leave the BJP fold, Sharma stated: "BJP has let down the Gorkhas. There arenumerous instances of this. They have never been serious about the Gorkhas and have just used us for securing seats during elections."

He further stated that while the BJP-led Union government had called for a report within 3 hours of the recent Ranigunj strife, it remained a mere spectator during the 2017 unrest in Darjeeling and the 104-day-long bandh. "Whereas Mamata Banerjee has helped restore peace and normalcy in the Hills. We want Dooars to benefit also," added Sharma. The GJM has strongholds in several areas of Dooars.

Solidarity from Gorkha Students, JNU for tea garden workers

10:26 AM

A statement of solidarity from Gorkha Students, JNU to the protesting tea garden workers for their minimum wage

All tea workers unions from Darjeeling, Dooars and Tarai under the broad banner of Joint Forum have decided to go for a 48 hour strike in Bengal against the exploitation of tea garden owners of Bengal, who are living in deplorable condition with less than minimum wage which is insufficient to live a dignified life. It is co-incidentally at the same time when the people of Gorkhaland are struggling against the oppressive linguistic imposition of the Bengal government on the indigenous people of the land.  The Hills, Terai and Dooars of Gorkhaland are gripped in seething angst when it is forced to witness the misery of its own people in the form of hunger and starvation deaths. It is outrageous to see the workers of a multi-million industry (tea plantation) dying a slow and painful death due to hunger and starvation. The irony of this situation is lies in the presence of stark poverty, chronic hunger and exploitation along-side the colossal profits these tea-gardens generate for the owners and the State. According to an estimate by the Darjeeling Chamber of Commerce, tea industry in the hills generates an average of Rs. 450 crores revenue annually, equal to that of the tourism industry in the region. Absence of workers’ rights, non-payment of minimum wages and benefits is not specific to the tea-industry alone but is rather a persistent feature of work in the highly segment labour-market in India. However, it is pertinent to highlight here the starkly Regional Aspects of Discrimination that lies so strongly visible in the tea industry. The minimum wage paid to unskilled tea labour in Kerala is Rs.301, in Assam it is Rs.158.54, in neighbouring Sikkim it is Rs. 200 while the same in Darjeeling comes to a meagre Rs.112. Even the minimum wage paid in West Bengal for MGNREGA is around Rs. 130-151 and for agricultural laborer is Rs. 206 per day. The tea workers in North Bengal are thus made to work for wages which is far below the minimum in any form of work. It is very shrewd on the part of the owners to claim low wages are due to low price being earned from the sales of tea leaves produced from these gardens. If this be the case then why the wages of workers remains same in those tea gardens which fetches the highest price in the world tea market( for instance Rs. 1.1 lakhs per kg of tea is produced by Makaibari tea garden but wages remain still at Rs.112).
In the last decade more than 1400 tea workers have died due to acute malnutrition and starvation. As recent as January 2013, 95 workers of the locked out Dheklapara Tea Estate in Dooars sent a letter to the Chief Minister of West-Bengal seeking her “order” to kill themselves because they were suffering from acute starvation. The tea workers therefore are forced to languish till they die of hunger and malnutrition. Studies show that 70% of the people of the closed tea gardens suffer from chronic energy deficiency III stage. In the gardens affected by starvation death like Red Bank, Bandapani, Diana and Kathalguri tea gardens, it was found that workers and their families have Body Mass Index (BMI) identical to those populations affected by severe famine.
The starvation death in the tea gardens, the crushing of the identity of the Gorkhas and other minorities and the denial of basic rights to oppressed communities in Bengal has been a phenomenon for centuries in Bengal. The hegemonic forces are united to crush every single voice of dissent and so now the time has come that the oppressed be united to fight against this domination for a better tomorrow.
At this hour of crisis, Gorkha Students, JNU stands in full support with the tea garden workers and the Gorkha people in their struggle for dignity, self-respect and a better life. When Oppressors are always united and consolidated, it is a historic responsibility on our shoulders to unite and fight for a just and egalitarian society!
We also demand that:
1. Closed and abandoned tea estates be reopened immediately.
2. Stop privatisation of government operated tea gardens.
3. Declare and implement Minimum Wage for tea plantation workers.
4. Grant legal ownership of housing space to workers
5. Casual labour should also be brought under the purview of Plantation Labour Act, 1951.
6. Backlog of unpaid Provident fund and gratuity should be cleared without delay.

Gorkha Students, JNU

Bengali optional in hills: CM Mamata Banerjee

4:48 PM


Mirik, June 5: Mamata Banerjee today said Bengali would not be compulsory at schools in the Darjeeling hills and in certain areas of the Dooars and the Terai.

The chief minister's about-turn is perceived to be aimed at meeting the twin objectives of soothing the frayed nerves in the hills and retaining the advantage Trinamul had made in recent civic polls.

Despite Mamata's announcement, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha said it would continue to hold processions across the hills till June 8 on the language issue.

Mamata made the announcement at a government programme here amidst an agitation launched by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on the language issue.

"Some persons here are playing politics and trying to divide people. The GTA elections are ahead and as they lack a proper issue, they are spreading rumours. We want to make it clear that Bengali will not be a compulsory language in the hills and in some parts of the Terai and the Dooars," Mamata said.

After the state government had made public its plan to make learning of Bengali compulsory at schools, Mamata and education minister Partha Chatterjee said the decision would be applicable to the hills as well.

However, the chief minister made a U-turn in Mirik today and said Bengali would be the fourth language in the hills.

"If Bengalis can read Nepali, then why can't Gorkhas read Bengali? We want to keep Bengali as an optional language as students in the hills need to know Bengali. In due course, when they will move out to other parts of the state for jobs, this learning will help them. It will be an optional language here," she said.

The change in the decision, observers said, was necessary to ensure that the hills did not shun Trinamul that had just won Mirik municipality and some seats in three other hill civic bodies.

"The decision had led to protests in the hills and the Morcha that was a bit upset after losing Mirik to Trinamul got a pertinent issue to revive its support base. After today's announcement, the situation has again become favourable for Trinamul," an observer said.

Mamata also said the state government would audit the spending of funds by the GTA that is administered by the Morcha.

(Via:Telegraph )

Darjeeling MP SS Alhuwalia Writes to PM Modi against Mamata's repressive and arbitrary order

11:45 AM

BREAKING: Darjeeling MP SS Alhuwalia Writes to PM Modi;  Seeks immediate intervention to end the "draconian emergency-like measures undertaken by the Mamata Banerjee government"

Taking strong exception to the filing of FIRs against Sahita Academy Award winners and heads of reputed schools in the hills by the police, Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia has written to PM Narendra Modi asking for his "immediate intervention to ensure that people of Darjeeling as well as North Bengal are saved from the draconian emergency-like measures undertaken by the Mamata Banerjee government." 

Here is the text of the letter released to the Press by his office...

"Respected Modi ji,

I am writing this letter to you in great anguish and in great urgency from Oslo, as I feel that your intervention is immediately needed to ensure that people of Darjeeling as well as North Bengal are saved from the draconian emergency-like measures undertaken by the Mamata Banerjee government to stifle the voices of dissent being raised in Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars against her repressive and arbitrary order q.

On 16th of May, 2017 West Bengal Chief Minister Miss Mamata Banerjee announced that Bengal would adopt a three-language policy and that Bengali language will be made compulsory in schools. Miss Mamata Banerjee had posted on her Facebook profile that “If the student chooses Bengali, Hindi, English, Urdu, Gurmukhi, Nepali, Alchiki as a first language, he/she may opt for two other languages of their choice. One of the three languages would have to be Bengali. The two other choices are completely dependent on what the student chooses.”

In the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars most students opt for Nepali/Hindi as their first language and English as the second language and those inclined to learn more languages opt for Hindi/Nepali as their third language. Students who want to learn Bengali are allowed to do so with no hindrance whatsoever and every year almost all the schools across the hills have students who complete their education with Bengali as their second language. However, making Bengali compulsory would mean that these students would not have any choice on which language they want to learn and their right to choose - a fundamental right under our constitution - is taken away from them.

Imposition of Bengali language even as a third BUT compulsory language will mean they have to forgo learning either English ( a language necessary for employment opportunities), Hindi (Our National Language, one that binds all people of this Nation together, as well as being a language for opportunities throughout India) or their respective mother tongues ( the language that binds people, especially those from the minorities, with their identity, history and culture, and without which, they are put on the path of losing their link with their heritage) , sacrificing it in favour of the Bengali language.

Following this, the linguistic minority communities within Bengal started to voice in their dissent and questioned the intent of such a move. Among the linguistic minority communities who live in Bengal, the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars is home to one of the most linguistically diverse regions in India. Among three major non-Bengali communities who live in these regions, Nepali, which is one of the recognized National Languages of India under the VIIIth schedule of our Constitution, is the lingua franca of the Gorkha community; Kamtapuri is the mother tongue for Rajbanshi community; and, the Adivasi community in my region speak Hindi, Kurukh, Sadri, Santhali, Nepali, and other languages/dialects.

On the 30th of May, 2016 the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which is a valued alliance partner of National Democratic Alliance, held a “Samiksha Sabha” to discuss the implications of compulsory imposition of Bengali language. This meeting was attended by eminent personalities from the Nepali academia, including Shahitya Academy Award winners Shri Jiwan Namdung and Shri Prem Pradhan, representatives of top schools in the hills, like St Paul's School, St Joseph's School (North Point), St. Roberts School, Vidhya Vikash Academy, among others, along with Shri Bimal Gurung, President of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and Chief of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. The meeting concluded with these eminent personalities opposing the compulsory imposition of Bengali language among the linguistic minority communities, and they agreed to register their protest by calling for a two day voluntary closure of educational institutions (on 1st and 2nd of June) in the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars region.

The bandh, I have been informed has been completely voluntary, peaceful, and thus successful today.

In retaliation, the Darjeeling District Administration at the behest of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has, however, filed an FIR against all the eminent people who had attended the meeting on May 30th. The FIR registered by the Inspector-in-Charge of Sadar Police Station, Darjeeling, Shri Saumyajit Roy, alleges these good people of “conspiring against the state.”, and carries the corresponding. relevant sections of the IPC.

My constituents fear that filing FIRs against these eminent personalities is just the beginning of an oppressive, authoritarian, despotic, and tyrannical regime unleashed by the Bengal government through the district administration to stifle the voices of concern and love for one’s mother tongue.

Sir, given all of the above, I humbly request you to kindly intervene and help to ensure that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of our nation, which are guaranteed to people from every part of West Bengal, along with the rest of the nation, are not trampled upon by Mamata Banerjee led government in West Bengal.

I urge you to help my constituents in raising their voice against such draconian and dictatorial measures adopted by the Bengal government by extending your solidarity and support to them.

I look forward to your kind support and earliest intervention.

Thanking You,
With Warm Regards,
SS Ahluwalia"

Darjeeling Trade union threatens road blockades during President visit

11:49 AM
DARJEELING 7 Jul 2016 Intensifying the ongoing agitation of tea garden workers , the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union today threatened to call its road blockades and  ‘chakka jam’ during the visit of the President and the West Bengal chief minister to the hills, from July 12 to 15.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha affiliated trade union is spearheading a relay hunger strike from June 16 demanding clearance of workers' dues and the agitation today reached its 22nd day.

The Alchemist group run Dootriah, Kalej Valley and Peshok tea gardens stand to pay dues up to Rs10 crore towards workers' provident fund, gratuity, salary and wages and other fringe benefits, while Jogmaya Tea Company and Panighatta tea estate, which are owned by other entities, have an unpaid accumulative amount of Rs2.46 crore.

Today, Darjeeling MLA Amar Rai and Rohit Sharma, his counterpart from Kurseong, visited the venue of the relay hunger strike and spoke with the agitators. Tilak Chand Roka, a GJM central committee leader and legal advisor to the DTDPLU, threatened an intensified agitation to press for the workers' demand. “We will close all the tea gardens in the hills as part of our intensified agitation.
Darjeeling Trade union threatens road blockades during President visit

We will even go for road blockades and chakka jam during the visit of the President and chief minister to the hills,” he threatened from outside the district magistrate’s office where the agitation is being staged.

As per the tentative schedule, President Pranab Mukherjee is expected to fly to Darjeeling on July 12. The next day, he will attend the birth anniversary celebrations of renowned Nepali poet

Bhanu Bhakta Acharya. On July 14, Mukherjee is expected to address the annual general meeting of the Darjeeling Tea Association and he will fly back to Bagdogra the next day. Chief minister Mamata

Banerjee will receive President Mukherjee at Bagdogra airport on July 11 and accompany him to the hills.

“Our agitation has entered the 22nd day but we have yet to receive any positive proposals or assurances from the owners of the five tea gardens or the state government. The workers have lost their patience to tolerate any further,” said Roka.

The threat of an intensified agitation by the trade union is contrary to what GJM general secretary Roshan Giri recently said after a meeting with K.D. Singh, the Trinamool MP who owns the Alchemist group of tea gardens. Giri had said a positive outcome was in the offing.

The DTDPLU legal advisor said the apathy being shown by the owners, the management and the state government in addressing the issue would affect more than 3,000 workers of the five tea gardens. “They are frustrated and in dire condition as they have not receied their salary and wages. In fact, many of them are being forced remain on empty stomachs. This is why we want the state government to show a positive attitude,” Roka said.

The three gardens under the Alchemist group have 2,598 workers in total, while Jogmaya and Panighatta gardens have 188 and 1,000 workers, respectively.


Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling's Effigy burnt in Kalimpong

9:34 AM

Kalimpong,15th June Pasang Tamang and his independent party today burned effigies of Sikkim chief minister Dr Pawan Chamling at Damber Chowk Kalimpong.

Tamang with around 150 supporters first took out a rally from the town. The supporters,who were carrying black flags and placards, raised slogans against Chamling demanding apology for his statement.

The protest came nearly a month after after Sikkim chief minister Dr Pawan Chamling while addressing a Sakewa celebration programme at Singithang Ground Namchi said that Sikkimese Nepalis must be clear that Gorkhas are people who had come to India to serve in the army in the past and later settled in different parts of the country.
Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling's Effigy burnt in Kalimpong
Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling's Effigy burnt in Kalimpong
He later added that the Sikkim Nepalis are not the same as the Gorkhas. Despite similarity in culture and tradition there is no similarity of the Sikkim Nepalis with the so-called Gorkhas, he said.

The statement was condemned by many but no one came forward. Pasang Tamang today said, “We as a small party waited for bigger parties to condemn the statement but they did not utter a word. Dr Pawan Chamling is a pride of our community and such a statement has hurt our sentiment.”

He said this is just the beginning of series of programmes.“We just want him to take back his words. If he does not we will hold protests in the Darjeeling Hills, Terai, Dooars and finally Delhi.

Via kalimpongnewsexpress

Dooars voted for Trinamul and BJP Assembly Election 2016

8:06 AM
Dooars goes to TMC & BJP


May 20: The tea belt in the Dooars has voted for Trinamul and the BJP, the parties that have negligible or no trade unison base in the region for the first time.

Trinamul has won four of the five seats and the BJP bagged one.

In the past, Malbazar, Nagrakata, Madarihat, Kalchini and Kumargram were with the Left Front or the Congress.

While Malbazar and Nagrakata are in Jalpaiguri district Madarihat, Kalchini and Kumargram are in Alipurduar.

"There was a common trend in the tea belt of the Dooars and Terai. In seats where the Citu or Utuc-backed unions were strong, the CPM or the RSP used to win and in places where Intuc-backed union was strong, the Congress would win," Gopal Pradhan, the president of the Utuc-backed Dooars Cha Bagan Workers' Union, said. "This is the first time that tea workers have voted for Trinamul and the BJP."

He added: "While the BJP does not have any trade union base in the tea belt, Trinamul has many and the total support base of such unions - which claim to be affiliates of the INTTUC - is less compared to Citu, Utuc or Intuc."

Trade union leaders said the campaigns by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee and interventions by both the state and central governments had worked.

"Tea workers who used to vote for the parent parties of the trade unions have started differentiating between unions and political parties," Mani Kumar Darnal, the joint general secretary of the Intuc-backed National Union of Plantation Workers, said.

A change has also been seen in the Terai's two Assembly seats in Darjeeling district.

In Matigara-Naxalbari, Sankar Malakar of the Congress won by a margin of 18,627 votes. In Phansidewa, Sunil Tirkey of the Congress has won by 7,074 votes. In both the seats, BJP's votes have increased by around six times compared to 2011. Trinamul has increased its votes compared to 2014.

Manoj Tigga, the BJP winner from Madarihat, said tea workers had lost faith in unions. "They want state and Centre to address their issues."


Apolitical Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh takes up Gorkhaland statehood demand

Darjeeling, 17 May 2016: The Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh, an apolitical organisation of the Gorkha community, today lamented without taking names that lack of political acumen and a proper blueprint and road-map were the reasons for the failure in achieving a Gorkhaland state.

Ever since its formation, the Parisangh has chose to focus on addressing social issues concerning the community living in the hills and other parts of the state. This is the first instance that the BGP has voiced its opinion on the statehood issue even though it was one of the constituents of the Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee set up in 2013 by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to take forward the statehood demand.

The GJAC comprised eight political parties including the BGP and the GJM, but it was disbanded after a few months the same year over differences within the members. BGP national president Sukh Man Moktan did not point fingers but his reference to the GJM was obvious by his statement. “There are many political parties that are demanding a separate state. That is okay as we do want a place that we can call our own. However, it is also true that these parties have failed to chalk out a proper roadmap and blueprint because of which our aspiration has remained unfulfilled even after all these years,” he said.
Apolitical Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh takes up Gorkhaland statehood demand
Apolitical Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh takes up Gorkhaland statehood demand
Citing examples, the Parisangh president said there was no clarity on the demarcation of the areas that needed to be in the proposed state or the number of districts it would encompass. He also said there was uncertainty over the number of legislators that were required or Zilla Parishads. “These are important factors when a demand for a separate state is taken up in Delhi and in Kolkata. But sadly this has been overlooked,” Moktan said.

When reminded of Bengal’s opposition and assertion that the state would never be divided, the BGP president said, “Bengal is against the statehood demand, no doubt. But we must try and convince it with the support of its people. It is important to form support groups in Kolkata and in Delhi that will pursue and talk to the governments in our favour.”

Moktan said that to lend weight and seriousness to the statehood demand, all political parties in the hills should be approached to form a centralised and streamlined movement. “There has to be a common platform for parties to take up the statehood demand. We must approach all likeminded people and organisations and only then will our demand become a reality,” said the Parisangh’s national president.

Speaking on the issue of the inclusion of the Dooars and Terai in the proposed area of a Gorkhaland state, Moktan said, “Many feel that parts of the Dooars and Terrai should also be included in the proposed area but it must be remembered that communities other than Gorkhas also reside there and their opinion and views are important.

They (non-Gorkha communities) must come forward and support the demand, and for this a strategy must be worked out.”

Coming September, the Parisangh has plans to lead a delegation of leaders from various political parties in the hills, Gorkha celebrities from the region and other states, and also try and persuade Sikkim chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling to speak in support of the statehood demand in Delhi.


Morcha to plan movement demanding land rights to tea and cinchona workers

7:38 AM
Writes: Vivek Chhetri

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has decided to start a movement demanding land rights for tea garden and cinchona plantation workers and minimum wages for tea estate labourers.

The party will form a 50-member committee that will have Morcha representatives and apolitical people from tea gardens and cinchona plantations, to chalk out the course of action.

The decision was taken at a meeting of members of the Morcha central committee, representatives of Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union (tea and cinchona units) and elected GTA Sabha members at the Gorkha Rangamanch Bhawan today.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: "It has been decided that a 50-member committee will be formed on May 15 to pursue the demand of land rights and minimum wages for tea garden workers. The committee will chart the future course of agitation."
Morcha representative handing over demand for Land rights to Union Commerce and Industries Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Morcha representative handing over demand for Land rights to Union Commerce and
Industries Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Morcha sources said this was the first time in "three-four years" that a joint meeting of the party central committee and the union leaders from gardens was held. "It is probably an outcome of opposition parties mobilising support in the hills," said a union leader.

The hill tea gardens have around 55,000 permanent and 20,000 temporary workers and nearly 5,000 people work in the cinchona plantations.

After its formation, Harka Bahadur Chhetri's Jana Andolan Party had laid stress on demanding land rights for tea and cinchona workers. Some JAP leaders from the Teesta Valley region in Darjeeling subdivision who took up the cause, however, joined the Morcha before the Assembly elections.
Today, Giri said: "The Left Front government had called a meeting in Calcutta on July 22, 2009, to look into the issue of granting land rights to tea garden workers. The meeting had been attended by land and land reforms commissioner and the principal secretary of commerce and industries department among others. Representative of the Consultative Committee on Plantation Associations had, however, expressed their opposition, after which the issue was not pursued. The TMC government did not hold a single meeting on this."

Giri said the Morcha would consult legal experts to see if the GTA could grant land rights to the cinchona workers.

"The GTA Act states that matters related to settling land rights and renewing lease of cinchona plantation lies with the GTA," he said.

Section 26 of the GTA Act says the hill body will have "administrative, financial and executive powers in the region in relation to cinchona plantation and settlement of land in possession of plantation inhabitants; management of lease of cinchona lands etc."

The state government has formed a committee to look into the minimum wage issue.

Workers of Dooteriah tea estate, 25km from Darjeeling, have threatened to block NH55 on May 18 if the management fails to clear their dues by May 14.

"The garden is owned by Trinamul Rajya Sabha member K.D. Singh and wages have been due since January. If it is not cleared we will block NH55 at Ghoom on May 18," said Ashok Rai, a garden employee. The estate has 1,372 labourers.

Source Telegraph

Bimal Gurung Extends Support for Justice for Champa Chetri's rape and murder in Assam

8:05 AM
Darjeeling 10th April: Bimal Gurung Extends Support on Behalf of the People of Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars to All Assam Gorkha Students Union (AAGSU) Agitation against the heinous acts of brutal rape and murder of a Gorkha girl, Champa Chetri, from Assam.

The GTA Chief Bimal Gurung has extended his support to the ongoing AAGSU agitation for justice for the Gorkha girl who was raped and murdered in Assam.

In a press statement, Mr. Gurung has stated "I extend my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the family of our Gorkhali daughter in Margherita, Assam who was brutally raped and murdered.
As a father of a daughter myself, I can imagine the horror and devastation they must have be living through.
Bimal Gurung Extends Support for Justice for Champa Chetri
From left Bimal Gurung and Champa Chetri, Gorkha girl who was raped and murdered in Assam
As the All Assam Gorkha Students Union are protesting against this heinous crime and demanding justice, on behalf of the people of Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars I extend our solidarity and assure them of all help and support from our side.

I will write to the Home Minister and Assam Government demanding for a swift and fair trial."

Bimal Gurung Official :
आसाम, मार्गेरिटाक्षेत्रका गोरखे चेलीमाथि वर्वरतापूर्ण बलात्कार अनि हत्या गरिएको घटनाको घोर प्रतिवाद जनाउँदछु। एक गोरखे चेलीप्रति भएको उक्त अनैतिक अनि अमानवीय घटनाले म अति नै आहत बनेको छु। एक छोरीको पिता हुनुको नाताले उक्त घटनाले उत्पन्न गराएको विभत्सता अनि मार्मिकताको अनुभव मैले गरेको छु। पीड़िताप्रति म हार्दिक श्रद्धाञ्जलि अर्पण गर्दछु साथै पीड़िता परिवारप्रति हार्दिक सम्वेदनासितै यो दुःखद घड़ीमा न्यायको निम्ति समग्र गोरखाहरू साथमा रहेको पनि निश्चिन्त गराउन चाहन्छु।

अल गोरखा आसाम स्टुटेन्ट्स युनियन(आग्सु)- ले यस घटनाको विरोध जनाउँदै पीड़िताको पक्षमा न्यायको माग अनि अपराधीहरूलाई सजायको माग गर्दै आन्दोलन गरिरहेको कुरा पनि मलाई थाह भएको छ। एक गोरखे चेलीमाथि भएको यस घटनाले समग्र गोरखाहरूलाई नै आहत बनाएको छ र समग्र गोरखाहरूबाट यस घटनाको प्रतिवाद अनि न्यायको माग गरियोस् भन्ने पनि म अपील गर्दछु।

दार्जीलिङ, तराई अनि डुवर्सका समग्र गोरखाहरूले पनि एकता अनि अखण्डताको परिचय दिँदै यस घटनाको न्यायिक जाँच अनि अपराधीहरूलाई उचित सजाय दिनुपर्ने माग गर्दै पीड़िताको परिवारको सहयोगमा अघि आउने कुरा आश्वस्त गर्न चाहन्छु। उक्त घटनाकाण्डमाथि निष्पक्ष अनि स्वतन्त्र जाँचकार्य गरी अपराधीहरूलाई कड़ाभन्दा कड़ा सजाय दिनुपर्ने माग गरेर मैले केन्द्रिय गृहमन्त्री माननीय राजनाथ सिहंजी अनि आसाम सरकारलाई पत्राचार पनि गरिसकेको छु।

Via TheDC / Bimal Gurung Official

Chandra Bose's 'Gorkhaland is anti-national' remark reflects BJP's hypocrisy - Anmol Prasad

11:38 AM
Writes: Anmole Prasad

If by some miracle, wrought by the concerted efforts of a thousand godmen at a yagya burning off several tons of ghee, the BJP manages to pull off a victory in West Bengal, then it is a sobering thought that Chandra Kumar Bose, grandson of Subhash Chandra Bose, might become West Bengal's next boss. Especially sobering for the people of Darjeeling and the Dooars.

Bose is the tip of the BJP spear in the forthcoming West Bengal assembly elections - he has been anointed to contest from the Bhowanipore seat against no less than the formidable Mamata Banerjee herself. If he manages this unlikely feat, there is little doubt that he will become the next Chief Minister of West Bengal. Bose is both a Darwinian and an optimist. According to a recent interview given to Catch, he believes that the BJP will evolve into a secular party that maintains communal harmony across the country.

Alao Read 

What makes Bose particularly interesting is that he makes no bones about his views on Gorkhaland. When asked by the same interviewer what he thought about slapping sedition charges on students, Bose replied: "...I think there should be a review of the sedition law and the all other laws from the British era. Having said that, I believe slogans like Bharat ki barbaadi or Gorkhaland should be treated as an attack on the integrity of India..."

Left Chandra Bose, right Anmol Prasad
Red in the face [though by no means in outlook] the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, NDA's self-proclaimed junior partner in Darjeeling, went into damage control, penning a strongly worded letter to the BJP president urging him to implore upon Bose to issue an apology to the Indian Gorkha community for vilifying the Gorkhas. It will be interesting to see whether the BJP will make Bose comply with the demand. As it stands however, Bose has made it clear that sloganmongers shouting either Bharat ki Barbadi or Gorkhaland stand on the same footing and must be dealt with sternly.

GJM's Failure
Meanwhile, local politics in Darjeeling has become a confusing whirl, a merry-go-round with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) offering to support the GJM who, whilst coyly dallying with this offer from the Left, are themselves waiting for support from the BJP. On the other hand, the BJP itself has been charged by the GJM with the unenviable task of extracting an apology from the BJP's star candidate in the West Bengal assembly elections for his comments on Gorkhaland. Or more correctly, to quote loosely from the letter sent by GJM Supremo Bimal Gurung: Amit Shah, president of the BJP is urged to implore upon Bose to issue an apology to the Indian Gorkha community. Whether the BJP will implore or not remains to be seen.

What turns on this? Nothing much, really. The insincerity of the BJP towards the demand for a separate state was already palpable in its casual reference in the 2009 and 2014 manifestos, promising merely to "sympathetically examine the long pending demands of the Gorkhas, the Adivasis and other people of Darjeeling district and Dooars region." Even more casual was the conduct of its successive MPs from Darjeeling who, having mopped up a massive mandate on the sentiments of their voters, trotted off to New Delhi to bleat in Parliament about how "these people in Darjeeling" deserved better roads and drinking water.

When the BJP returned their massive victory in 2014, it seemed that the constellations could not have been better placed for the Gorkhaland demand. All that the GJM needed to do - or so it appeared - was to make a quick stab for the summit. The BJP had neither stakes nor any aspirations in West Bengal. Their newly formed government at the Centre took no prisoners, and did not require the support of any party from Bengal.

Had the Bill for the creation of a separate state of Darjeeling and the Dooars been placed in Parliament, their mandate in the Lower House would have passed the Bill with a deafening clang. The Upper House would have required some work but some nimble lobbying on the part of the Darjeeling leaders might have done it.

So why didn't it happen? Sincerity of purpose - or the lack of it - is merely one of many reasons. It is now clear that there was, nor will there ever be any political will within the BJP to grant statehood to Darjeeling and the Dooars. Within days of coming into contact with the GJM, the BJP bosses quickly realised that they had a pliable, unwitting ally in their hands, one that enjoyed an absolute sway over an emotional, starry-eyed populace at that. And the BJP was quick to exploit the opportunity.

MPs Who Did Nothing
The GJMM itself, unsuccessful in finding support from any other quarter in New Delhi, was only too eager to outsource its lone representative's seat in Parliament in exchange for patronage from the BJP. Their supporters, heavily invested in the belief that Gorkhaland was just around the corner, had no real say in the matter really. And thus for two consecutive terms, the Darjeeling voters elected a Member of Parliament who had no clue about the needs and aspirations of their 'people'.

Having secured a seat in Parliament cheaply in exchange for a flimsy, sloppily-worded assurance the BJP lost no time in reducing the GJM to the level of abject subservience. The same party that ushered in the arrival of the Hindu Right in the Darjeeling hills was relegated to the bottom of the heap in its own territory. Two consecutive Members of Parliament Jaswant Singh and SS. Ahluwalia were remarkable for their absence, spending more time in the corridors of the capital than in the constituency.

Like comets they would appear from time to time only to dole out what remained of their MP funds in order to staunch any criticism. Slowly but surely the GJMM lost the advantage to the BJP, finding it harder and harder to even get an appointment or audience with their own MPs. And about the way they were treated in New Delhi by their own Parliamentary representatives, the less said the better.
Years of getting away with it has inured national parties in their dealings with Darjeeling. And the blame lies squarely with our own leaders. With dreary regularity, they would ferry a virtual stranger from New Delhi, introduce him to the voters as their Great Liberator, one who would guarantee Instant Gorkhaland, and thereafter compel people to support him as their representative in Parliament.
Once the victory celebrations were over, these gentlemen of fortune would then depart for the capital, never to return for a second term. On the rare appearances they made, the local party would grovel and cringe, ushering them as chief guests from one tamasha to another. Nobody had any idea of what they did in New Delhi and at any rate, precious little information trickled back.

And so hardly anyone in Darjeeling was aware of the fact that in the early nineties, Inderjit Khuller, the MP who surfed the wave of popular support and won the Darjeeling MP's seat with the help of the GNLF, even had the audacity to oppose the Nepali language Bill in Parliament, terming it a "foreign language".

Back to Netaji's grandson, allowing for his abysmal information levels, it would still be hard for anyone to imagine that Chandra Kumar Bose didn't have any idea what Gorkhaland stood for. That Article 3 of the Indian Constitution actually permitted it. That topography, ecology, language and economic logic made it an obvious choice for these fragile Himalayas. But the Gorkhaland agitation has in more than one account been misconstrued by lazy writers as a 'conflict' or a 'separatist' movement.

Caught between the extreme insurgencies of the North-East and the complex mass politics of the mainland, Darjeeling's separate state movement has foundered in a series of crises - a crisis of leadership, a crisis of ideas and a crisis of means. Its feudal protagonists, oblivious of the suspicion and indifference with which the people of the region are perceived by the Indian Union, oblivious of national security and of national ignorance, found themselves alternately preening and posturing as Guevara-style guerillas one the one hand and as neo-Gandhians on the other. Nationalistic rhetoric was raised to a fever pitch but paradoxically parading the culture of neighbouring Nepal to emphasise one's Indianness.

The Indian identity of Gorkha was strangely referenced the name of a district in the same Nepal from which we sought to distance our citizenship. The feeble threats to 'internationalise' the issue by raising bogus claims of Kalimpong being a part of Bhutanese territory, or threats of writing to the United Nations or the Hague have nothing to further our cause. The unipolar plank of identity politics, ignoring other critical social, political and economic issues, has convinced no one and leaves New Delhi cold.

Unless newer - and less pretentious - methods of taking it forward are soon evolved, the movement for a separate state is liable to run aground - especially if our power-crazed Captain, having thrown both compass and sextant overboard, continues to insist on manning the rudder all by himself. Time perhaps, to prise his hands gently off the wheel and lead him below?

Via: Catch News

Why I am not voting for Trinmool, and Neither Should You

8:39 AM
Writes: Upendra for TheDC

FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2016 Much has been going on in the Darjeeling political scenario of late, for anyone remotely interested in politics these are an exciting time for the people in our region. We are literally spoilt for choices, issues range from the promised “development” to “Sikkim merger,” from formation of a “new district” to removing “corruption,” from ushering in a new era of “intellectual” politics to remaining steadfast in our quest for “Gorkhaland” statehood.

However of all the political parties in fray, I am confident that I won’t vote for Trinmool Congress, and I am hopeful that after reading my reasons for not voting for them, you will also reconsider your decision i.e. if you were planning on voting for them.

The obvious reason why people in Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars may not vote for TMC is because of their persistent stand against Gorkhaland. However, I don’t grudge them that. To be honest, CPI(M) and Congress are equally opposed to our fundamental demand, and so is Bengal BJP. Democracy is a number game, and no political party in their right mind would want to give up chances of winning 294 seats in the Bengal legislature and 42 MP seats by supporting Gorkhaland demand, which will at the most get them 6 MLA seats and 1 MP seat. In fact, it would be idiotic of TMC and every other party that hopes to make it big in Bengal not to oppose the demand for Gorkhaland.

My reason for not wanting to vote for TMC goes beyond the obvious. I am not voting for TMC for their utter disregard for the Gorkhali community, for undermining our very existence and for functionally turning us into a 2nd class citizen.
Here are some proof.

Disenfranchised Gorkhas
Politics is governed by one fundamental law and that is the “law of inclusion,” wherein the majority accommodate the needs of the minority, provide them with a level playing field, and most important of all treat them as equal. As far as TMC is concerned, we are disposable, and our lack of adequate voting numbers is perhaps the reasons why they have taken us for granted and continue to do so.

There was a time tested tradition, a political courtesy that every government of Bengal extended to the Gorkhas, that of sending in one Gorkha MP to the Rajya Sabha. Congress used to do it and CPI(M) honoured that tradition. Shri Dawa Lama and later Shri Saman Pathak – both Gorkhas – were nominated to the Rajya Sabha by CPI(M) prior to TMC taking power in Bengal. However, as soon as they came to power, the very first step that TMC took was to deny the Gorkhas our one representative in the upper house of the Indian Parliament.

Instead of sending a Gorkhali as Rajya Sabha MP, TMC chose to nominate KD Singh – a businessman of questionable antecedents from Jharkhand to represent us in the Rajya Sabha.

This despite the fact that Mr. KD Singh is the owner of Alchemist group that was already under investigation for Chit-fund like financial scam in Jharkhand.

Tea Garden Woes 
The same Alchemist group owns three tea gardens in our hills – Dhotrey, Peshok and Kallej Valley. This group which is worth over 10,000 crores hasn’t paid the workers in these garden their wages, bonuses or facilities that they are supposed to get.

They literally pushed over 2200 workers and their dependent family members in these gardens towards starvation. You can read the plight of the workers here Yet the Bengal CM and KD Singh’s close friend did not even utter a word of reprimand. This is how much she cares for our people.

On April 13th, 2016 speaking at a public rally in Jalpaiguri, Mamata once again claimed that “no one has died of starvation or malnourishment in the tea gardens of Dooars during TMC rule.”

Nothing could be further from the truth as we all know. Over 1300 people have died due to starvation from 2011 to 2016 that TMC was in power, and many more are continuing to starve in the foothills of Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars.

Yet she had the galls to stand in Jalpaiguri which is surrounded by starving tea garden workers and claim that “there have been no starvation deaths.” It would be akin to Hitler going to a Gestapo concentration camp in Nazi Germany and claiming that no Jews have been murdered.

How sincere do you think TMC is in solving the issues surrounding tea garden workers, if they continue to deny that the tea garden workers are suffering to begin with?

Moreover, for centuries the tea garden workers have been treated like feudal slaves, with no right to even a small piece of land that they can claim as their own. The land rights in every state are vested with the state government, yet after coming to power Mamata hasn’t taken one single step to provide land rights for the tea garden workers, and she expects us to believe that she is the next best thing to have happened for the tea garden workers after the Brits introduced tea in our region.

Blood on Their Hands
The sufferings that our brothers and sisters working in the tea garden have to endure was made apparent, when despite repeated request for relocation of their village – Limbu Gaon following the 2011 earthquake, was ignored and denied. That earthquake had left a huge crater above the village and locals were worried that it could cause a landslide. All their please and requests landed on deaf ears of the Bengal government. Such was the gravity of the situation that on July 18, 2013 the Mirik Mirik BDO had written to his higher-ups, "As per field einquiry it is found fact that there is a huge landslide directly affected to the above said village... it is beyond the capacity of the establishment to protect the landslide affected area as desired by the villagers. YOU ARE HEREVY REQUESTED TO CONSIDER THE MATTER URGENTLY (sic)."  You can read the whole saga here with proof

The worse fears of Tingling residents came true on 1st of July almost two years after this fateful letter requesting action from the then Mirik BDO, when landslide swept away the entire Limbu Gaon leaving 19 people dead in its wake.

What happened was not a tragedy; it was MURDER IN COLD BLOOD.
Following the tragedy, the survivors were shifted to make-shift relief camps, and the Bengal government promised immediate relief and rehabilitation. However almost 2 years after the tragedy people from Tingling are still not provided with land where they could shift to, remember the Land Rights are still being held by the Bengal government.
Out of desperation residents in Tingling staged a shut down demanding swift action towards relocating them, but their demands have once again landed on deaf ears.

Unequal Even in Death 
More often than not we assume that no matter how rich or poor you are, death equals us all. Sadly for the Gorkhas, even in death we are unequal to rest of Bengal. When tragedy struck Darjeeling in the form of landslides and earlier earthquake, the Trinmool government announced a relief compensation of Rs 4 Lakhs per dead to the next of kin.

She even came to Mirik in person and handed over the cheques to the family of a few victims. But much like every other insincere action of Bengal government, even the cheques could not be cashed, as there was no money in the account from which the cheques had been issued [Details:] that is how much Mamata actually cared for the victims.

It is however ironic that the same AIGL that raised this issue today is happy supporting TMC in these upcoming elections.

Only two months from the fateful July landslides, another tragedy struck when a crane fell in Mecca Masjid in Saudi Arabia on Sept 2015, killing 107 people. Two Haj pilgrims who died that day were from West Bengal, and immediately Mamata announced a compensation of Rs 10 Lakh to the victim’s next of Kin.

I am not sure what makes the death of Gorkhas in the hills less worthy of compensation, than when someone died in Mecca? And this discrimination against the hill people was again made apparent, when tragedy struck in Kolkata recently and Mamata announced a compensation of Rs 5 Lakhs.

I wonder how long Bengal will continue to regard our people as less worthy even in death.

No Martyr’s Land

Bengal has always been very insensitive towards our brave-hearts. During the heights of Kargil war when all other state governments were going out of their way to provide help, assistance and support to the families of the Martyrs, no one from Bengal government had bothered to even show up to provide consolation to the families of the dearly departed.

Mamata has carried on with the same indifference towards our brave-hearts. Recently when the mortal remains of two Martyrs Hav. Bhawan Tamang and Rfn Sunil Rai were brought to Bagdogra, no one from the Government was present to receive the dead-bodies or pay homage to them.

In other states Chief Ministers go to visit the families of the Martyrs, and even the Prime Minister takes out his time to share the grief as well as extend support to the family, however even a puny SDO was not present on behalf of the Government to receive the dead body of our Martyrs. This level of apathy and indifference doesn’t arise from lack of interest, it arises from utter disrespect towards our land, our people and our community.

Linguistic Imperialism 
These are some of the most basic instances of discrimination that I have seen and faced personally, but nothing hurts me more than the utter lack of respect that Bengal government under TMC has shown towards our mother tongue Nepali. Despite repeated requests, West Bengal government did not see it fit to include Nepali as an optional subject in WBCS.

Our students are asked to speak and write in Bengali if they want job with the CSC and PSC. So much is the apathy hate towards our language that this is how West Bengal police wished us during Dasain...

And when one of us pointed it out, his family and friends were harassed with repeated calls to report to the police station. You can know more about linguistic discrimination meted out against Nepali language here:

As if the discrimination against our language is not enough, TMC has actively sought to divide the hill populace along ethnic lines. By forming community specific “development boards,” handing over anywhere from Rs 20 crores to Rs 5 crores on her whims and fancies to them, Mamata has proven that she has no intension what so ever of allowing the Gorkhas to remain autonomous and united.

I feel ashamed that our own people are behaving like hungry DOGS and lapping up a few crumbs that she is throwing on our way. These “development boards” are nothing but TMC-proxy in our hills and through it Mamata has managed to create a huge rift among our own people.

All of these may seem like small instances of oversight and realpolitik, but for me they are a rather elaborate web of wicked design that the TMC is weaving around us, and no thanks to “intellectuals” who have rushed in to support and seek support from TMC, their plans seem to be succeeding. We are allowing ourselves to be subjugated for our own selfish motives. What is happening in our region is nothing other than सौता को रिस ले लोग्ने को काख मुत्ने काम... Shameful and Self-destructive.

Unless we all send out our resounding verdict of NO MORE through our votes against the TMC and their Chela-chamundas, trust me that day is not far when we may continue to remain a Tamang, a Gurung, a Newar, a Kami, a Chettri, a Rai, a Chettri and so on, but will cease to exist as Gorkhas.

So please DO VOTE and make your VOTE COUNT... 

Vote for keeping the hopes and dreams of our ancestors and our future generations alive. Vote to let Bengal know that they cannot buy out all the Gorkhas. Vote to let the sellouts among us know that they will not dictate terms to all of us. Vote to show the nation that the Gorkhas are united and we will always and forever cherish our freedom and self-respect over Bengal’s dominance.

Vote Judiciously!! Vote for Gorkhaland!!

4 Gorkha candidates vie for 3 reserved seats in Dooars

7:13 PM
Pramod Giri, HT, 14 Apr 2016, Kolkata: Vishal Lama, Usha Tamang, Padam Lama and Ganesh Lama may or may not win the Assembly elections. But they are the lucky ones to represent their community for the first time in the Dooars region of Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri districts where most seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

Contesting from three seats these candidates represent the Gorkha community which has the second largest population after the Adivasis in tea producing belts of Dooars. Among the six seats n Dooars, five are reserved for STs while Alipurduar is a general constituency.

Mal, Nagrakata, Madarihat, Kalchini and Kumargram, all reserved Assembly seats for Scheduled Tribes, have always been sending MLAs belonging to the Adivasi community.

The inclusion of Tamang and Subbas belonging to Gorkha community in the Scheduled Tribes list in 2002 has changed the equation thus giving an opportunity to the Gorkha Scheduled Tribes to vie for MLA seats in the Dooars.

Dooars, known as the land of tea gardens and forests, has always lagged behind in terms of development while malnutrition deaths in the closed and abandoned tea gardens have become a regular occurrence.
Four Gorkha Scheduled Tribe candidates are contesting Assembly elections from the reserved seats of Kalchini, Madarihat and Nagrakata.

Vishal Lama and Usha Tamang are contesting as BJP and Independent candidates respectively from Kalchini. The Trinamool has fielded Padam Lama from Madarihat and Ganesh Lama is the All-India Gorkha League candidate from Nagrakata.

Mohan Sharma of the Trinamool, probably the best known political leader in entire Dooars, who is a Gorkha, said, “This is the first time Gorkhas are contesting the Assembly election in the Dooars.” Sharma, the sabhadhipati of Alipurduar zilla parishad, told HT, “Had Subbas and Tamangs not been accorded Scheduled Tribe status, hardly any Gorkha would have contested the Assembly election in the Dooars.”

Though reservation has largely helped to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the Adivasis, this has also come on the way of Sharma and Amarnath Jha of realising their dream of achieving higher political status. Sharma and Jha, both Brahmins and who were in the Congress for a long period before joining the Trinamool, are credited with grooming many junior Adivasi leaders who later became ministers, MPs and MLAs.

Via kalimpongnews

Siliguri Terai Gorkha Vikash Manch Extends Support to Trinmool

11:09 AM
In yet another show of solidarity with the Trinmool, the recently formed STGVM which was formed by dissidents from GJM has extended their support to TMC.
Attending the TMC rally in Siliguri, the STGVM delegation led by Mr. Sanam Giri, Samvhu Rai, Uttam Gurung and Ram Chettri yesterday said that "we have placed our demands to the Chief Minister and she has assured us of considering those demands, she has also assured us that she will develop all the Development Boards so we are extending our support to Trinmool and we will vote for TMC."
It might be recalled that Mamata formed a Terai-Dooars Gorkha Development Board on March 17th, 2016 and has allocated Rs 5 Crore to them.
Siliguri Terai Gorkha Vikash Manch Extends Support to Trinmool

Via TheDC

SS Ahluwalia Takes Exception to Non-Inclusion of Nepali Language Option in State Bank of India Recruitment

1:45 PM
Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia Takes Exception to Non-Inclusion of Nepali Language Option in State Bank of India Recruitment - Writes to Finance Minister

Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia has taken strong note of non-inclusion of Nepali language option in State Bank of India recruitment and has written to the Finance Minister as well as the Chairperson of SBI demanding inclusion of Nepali language option, and extending the application deadline to allow for youths from Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars region to complete the application formalities.

MP Shri. Ahluwalia has also demanded that Nepali being a national language of India, should be offered as an optional language in all states of NE and rest of India where a large number of ethnically Nepali people reside.

Here is the text of his letter to the Finance Minister.

Shri. Arun Jaitley 
Hon’ble Finance Minister 
Government of India

Re: Exclusion of Nepali speaking candidates from SBI Recruitment

Dear Arun ji,
I want to draw your attention to the plight of the Gorkhali community in India, whose mother tongue is Nepali. Recently the SBI through the advertisement number CRPD/CR/2016-17/01 dated April 3, 2016 has sought applications for the post of Junior Associates (customer support and sales) for which there are close to 15000 vacancies that have opened up all over India, out of which around 2000 have opened up in the state of West Bengal.

When youths from my constituency logged online to apply for the post, they were taken aback to realize that the only linguistic option that they could chose for official language in the state of West Bengal was Bengali. Where as in Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars region majority of the people learn and speak Nepali and not Bengali.

Perhaps the SBI Human Resources Department is not aware of the fact that Nepali is one of the 22 National Languages of India that have been duly recognized as such, under the VIIIth Scheduled of our Constitution since 1992. It also seems that the SBI Human Resources Department is not aware of the fact that Nepali is one of the Official Languages of West Bengal along with Bengali and has been so since 1961.

In not allowing aspirants from Bengal to chose Nepali or any other official state languages – Hindi, Urdu etc, the State Bank of India has effectively disqualified those whose mother tongue is not Bengali, even before the recruitment process has begun.

I strongly feel that this is against the constitution guaranteed right of every national language being treated as equal, and also this is infringing upon the fundamental rights of my constituents to be able to chose their mother tongue, which is a recognized national language of India, as a linguistic option. I also feel that in not allowing the Gorkha aspirants to chose Nepali as a language option anywhere in India, the State Bank has turned them into a 2nd class citizen, whose language – even though recognized by our Constitution as one of the national languages – is actually not considered worthy of landing a job with a Government of India entity.

It is because of such instances of repeated discrimination, even by a Central government enterprise, the Gorkhas have been agitating for decades, asking for autonomy for themselves towards ensuring that they will not be discriminated against, on the basis of their language, ethnicity, or culture.

I therefore request you to kindly instruct the State Bank of India and all other Central government entities to ensure that Nepali language and other languages that are actually recognized as Official Language of our state should be made optional during the application process in West Bengal. In addition, Nepali should also be made optional in all the North Eastern states, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi where Nepali speaking people reside in a large number.

Also, since this application process started from 5th of April, 2016 and is only going to last till the 25th of April, all the applicants from my constituency have not been able to fill up their forms so far, due to the linguistic barrier.

Given this, I request you to kindly instruct the State Bank of India to extend the date by when the application can be filled in to 15th of May 2016, so that all those youths from my constituency who have been deprived from applying for these said posts are able to do so.

I look forward to a positive response from you at the earliest.
Kindest regards

SS Ahluwalia 
MP, Darjeeling 

Via TheDC

Narendra Modi confirms that process to grant ST status to Gorkhas has begun.

6:43 PM
Narendra Modi at Madrihat Bengal confirms that process to grant St status to 11 Gorkha Communities has began.

“Many promised that they will include the Gorkhas among the SC and ST category. But none delivered. Your MP has started the exercise,” - Modi

Speaking at Madarihat in the North Bengal Dooars tea belt, Modi started his speech in Bengali, drawing on tea to connect with his audience. “You produce tea here. I also sold tea in my childhood. I want your blessings as I want to solve your problems.”

In quite a few tea gardens in the Dooars region, more than 100 workers had died of conditions related to severe malnourishment in the past few months. Given the ailing condition of several tea gardens, the Centre in January authorised the Tea Board of India to take over seven gardens belonging to the G P Goenka group – Birpara, Garganda, Lankapara, Tulsipara, Huntapara, Dhumchipara, Demdima with a total of 17,555 workers. The move followed more than one visit of union minister Nirmala Seetharaman who came to check on the situation in the gardens.

Watch the Video
“We ordered takeover of the tea gardens. But Mamata Banerjee together with the owners went to the court and obtained a stay... But I will not stop. I will not allow welfare of the tea workers to stop,” Modi said, as he accused the state government of apathy and alleged no welfare officers were willing to listen to the plight of the distressed tea workers.

“The Left took the state on the path of ruin in 34 years. Didi is pushing Bengal forward in the same direction,” he added.

Also focusing on Gorkhas, Modi said, “Many promised that they will include the Gorkhas among the SC and ST category. But none delivered. Your MP has started the exercise,” referring to S S Ahluwalia who won the Darjeeling Lok Sabha constituency in 2014 with support from the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), a BJP ally.

Via: Hindustan Times

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