Showing posts with label economy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economy. Show all posts

चिया कमानको मजदुरको जीवनको मोल कति?

9:57 PM
सम्पूर्ण चिया कमानहरुमा काम बन्द गर अनि श्रमिकहरुलाई बन्द अवधीको वेतन देऊ!

DTA अनि CCPA को दार्जीलिङ पहाड़को चियाकमानहरुमा काम संचालित रा‌ख्ने कोशिशको घोर निन्दा गरौं!

विश्वलाई त्रासित बनाएको कोरोना भाइरसको महामारी विरुद्ध हर एक देश अनि संस्थाहरु एकबद्ध भएर सक्रिय रुपमा काम गरिरहेका छन्। हाम्रो देशमा पनि यो भाइरसको विस्तारलाई रोक्नको निम्ति सरकारले कतिपय मापदण्ड या नियमहरु तय गरेका छन्। सरकारले जनाएका धेरैवटा सावधानीहरु मध्ये 'शारीरिक दूरी' प्रमुख हुन्। यस विषयलाई प्राथमिकता दिदै सरकारले २१ दिनको 'भारत लॉकडाउन' को घोषणा पनि गरेका छन्। यस निर्णयलाई देश भरिका राज्यहरुले अनिवार्यतापुर्वक पालन गर्ने सहमति जनाएका छन्। COVID-19 को रुपमा प्रकट भएको विश्वरुपी महामारीलाई ठप्प गर्न हरेक व्यक्ति अनि सरकारको जिम्मेवारी बन्न पुगेको छ।

हालैमा कालेबुंग निवासी कोरोना भाइरस पिडित महिलाको मृत्युको घटनाले हाम्रो पहाड़ पनि भाइरसको चपेटमा आइसकेको कुरा प्रष्ट हुन्छ। उनको मृत्यु North Bengal Medical College, Siliguri मा भर्ना भएको एक दुइ दिन भित्रमा २८ मार्च २०२० को दिन भयो। पहाड़मा घटित यो प्रथम मृत्युले सबैलाई सोचनीय स्थितिमा पुर्याएको छ र सरकारी स्वास्थ चिकित्सा व्यवस्था प्रति धेरै प्रश्नहरू उठ्न स्वाभाविक नै हो। के सरकारले यस्तो संकटको परिस्थिति सामना गर्न आवश्यक तयारी गरेका छन् त ? के हाम्रा क्षेत्रका अस्पतालहरु आवश्यक चिकित्सा सुविधाहरू बारे सुचित थियो त ? सामाजिक संजालमा अडियो विडियो मार्फत कोरोना संक्रमित लक्षण हुने व्यक्तिहरुले उचित ढंगमा उपचार नपाएको गुनासो गरिएको खुलासाले हाम्रो सरकारी चिकित्सा प्रावधान कति जिर्ण अवस्थामा छ भन्ने कुराको पुष्टी गर्दछ। यस घटनालाई लिएर अस्पतालको अवस्था मात्र नभएर डाक्टर र चिकित्सा कर्मचारीहरु माथि प्रश्न उठी रहेको छ। तर वास्तवमा कुरा बुझ्नु हो भने यी प्रश्नहरुको उत्तर दिने दायित्व सरकारको हो। उपचार गर्ने डाक्टर अनि चिकित्सा कर्मचारीहरुले पनि सरकारद्वारा पाउनु पर्ने आवश्यक 'Personal Protective Equipments (PPE)' पाएका छैनन्। उनीहरु त आफ्नो दायित्वलाई पुरा गर्न ज्यानलाई जोखिममा हाल्दै भए पनि सक्रियतापुर्वक अघि बढिरहेका छन्।
Darjeeling Tea Workers
Darjeeling Tea Workers

अर्को आश्चर्यजनक कुरो के छ भने, यस्तो महामारीको समयमा पनि दार्जीलिंग टी एसोशियेसन (DTA) अनि कन्सल्टेटिव कमिटि अफ प्लानटेसन एसोशियेसन (CCPA) ले चिया बगानहरुलाई पुर्ण रुपमा संचालन गर्ने मांग बंगाल सरकार सामु राखेको छ। विश्वभरिनै लॉकडाउनलाई गम्भिरतापूर्वक पालन गरिरहेको बेला हाम्रो चिया बगान कर्मचारीहरु भने आज पनि बाध्य भएर बगान धाइरहेका छन्। बंगाल सरकारले पनि यस मांग माथि विचार गर्ने कुरा स्टेट्सम्यान खबरकागजबाट बुझ्नमा आईदैछ। चिया बगान कर्मचारीहरुको हीत अनि सुरक्षा को जिम्मा DTA अनि CCPA जस्तो संस्थाहरुले लिनु पर्ने बेलामा, अझ कर्मचारीहरुलाई खाड़लमा हाल्ने मेलो गरिदैछ। DTA अनि CCPA का सदस्यहरु लगायत चिया बगानका मालिकहरुले दर्शाएको यस्तो असंवेदनशील निर्णयलाई हामी घोर भर्त्सना गर्छौ। के उनीहरु साँचै कोरोना भाइरसको प्रभावबारे अज्ञात छन्? या उनीहरुलाई लाग्छ, पुस्ता पुस्ता देखि घाउ, चोट अनि दु:ख खप्नु सक्ने कर्मचारीहरुले यो कोरोना भाइरसलाई पनि आरामले पचाईदिने छ। के चिया बगान कम्पनीले उगाउने भव्य नाफाको सामु चिया बगान कर्मचारीहरुको जीवनको मूल्य यति तुच्छ छ ?

पुरा पश्चिम बंगालमा लॉकडाउनको आदेश दिने सरकारले, कसरी चिया बगानका कर्मचारीहरुसंग पक्षपात गर्न सक्छ? चिया बगान र कारखानासंग जुडिएको प्रत्येक काम नै संगठित ढंगमा गर्नु पर्ने हुन्छ, यसैले 'शारीरिक दूरी' पालन गर्न असम्भव छ। चिया बगान खोलिनु नै यहाँ काम गर्ने कर्मचारीहरुको ज्यानलाई खतरामा पार्नु हो अनि उनीहरुको वर्तमान अनि भविष्यलाई जोखिममा हाल्नु हो। कथांकल दुर्भाग्यवस भोलीको दिनमा केहि क्षति पुग्न गए, के बंगाल सरकार, DTA अनि CCPA ले सम्पूर्ण चिया बगान कर्मचारीहरुको अनि उनीहरुको भावी पिडाको जिम्मेवारी लिने छन् त? त्यस बखत शायदै DTA अनि CCPA ले निर्धारित गरेको चिया बगान केन्द्रित 'Strict Safety and hygiene guidelines' प्रभावशालि हुने छन्।

विशेषगरि, DTA अनि CCPA को मांगबारे स्थानीय प्रसाशन (GTA) अनि अरु राजनैतिक दलहरुको परिप्रेक्ष्य बारे केहि प्रश्न गर्न चाहन्छौ। प्रथम, DTA र CCPA ले गरेको मांग अनि कर्मचारीहरुको सुरक्षाबारे विवाद हुँदा, GTA का प्रतिनिधि, दार्जीलिंग जिल्लाको MP अनि MLA हरुको के-कस्ता प्रतिक्रियाहरू आएका छन् ? दोश्रो, यस्तो विवाधित क्षणमा पहाड़को स्थानीय राजनैतिक दलहरु साँचै नै श्रमिकवर्गको जीवन र सुरक्षाको अधिकारको पक्षमा छ भने, किन DTA र CCPA को निर्णयको विरुद्ध किन निमुखा दर्शक बनिरहेको छन् त ? यदि आफ्नो राजनैतिक सहायकहरुलाई खुशी पार्न मात्रै राजनीति गर्न हो भने, आफ्नो कुम्लो कटेरो बाँधे हुन्छ। तेश्रो, एकातिर हाम्रो राजनैतिक प्रतिनिधिहरु मुख्यत: सांसद क्षेत्रको भावी योजनाहरूबारे ट्वीट गर्नमै व्यस्त देखिन्छ भने अर्कोतिर DTA र CCPA को हालैको निर्णयलाई लिएर आफ्नो मन्तव्य राख्नबाट टाढ़िएको सर्वविदित नै छ। उता पहाड़का तिन विधायकहरुले पनि DTA र CCPA को अमानविय निर्णय, जसले हजारौ श्रमिकहरुको ज्यानलाई जोखिममा पारेको छ, त्यस विरुद्ध चुँ सम्म पनि गरेका छैनन्। राज्य सरकार, विधायकहरु र सांसद, मालिक पक्षले खुल्लम-खुल्ला श्रमिक बर्गको जीवन र सुरक्षाको अधिकारको हनन् गरेको देख्दा देख्दै पनि सबै किन‌ मौन छन् ? उनीहरुको मौनताले हामीलाई यो प्रश्न तेर्साउनुमा मजबूर गर्छ कि, के सरकार, विधायकहरु र सांसद, उही मुट्ठीभर मालिक पक्षले मात्र बनाएको हो ? हाम्रो प्रतिनिधिहरु यस्ता विपतको क्षणमा पनि DTA र CCPA को कमानलाई संचालित राख्ने अमानवीय र निन्दनीय कोशिशको विरुद्धमा एक शब्द पनि किन बोल्नु सकिरहेको छैन त ?

यसै संदर्भमा हाम्रो छिमेकी राज्य आसम सरकारले २१ मार्च २०२० को दिन नोटिफिकेसन नो: L.E.16/2018/4035-98 मार्फत चिया बगानहरुलाई पूर्णरुपमा लॉकडाउन गर्ने आदेश दिएका थिए। यस नोटिफिकेसन अनुसार चिया बगानको लॉकडाउन साथसाथै कर्मचारीहरुले पाउने हाजिरा, उनीहरुको रोजगार अनि अधिकारहरु माथि ठप्प नलागिने निर्णय लिएका थिए। तर हालैमा चिया कमानको मालिक वर्गहरुको प्रेसरमा आएर आसम सरकारले आफ्नै निर्णय फिर्ता लिने भएका छन। र यस्तो स्थितिमा हाम्रो पनि क्षेत्रको जन प्रतिनिधिहरुको साथै राजनैतिक दलहरुको मौनता, DTA र CCPA को निवेदन, बंगाल सरकारको मनोवृत्ति हेर्दा मालिकवर्ग संग केन्द्र र राज्य सरकार दुवै मिलेर मजदुरहरुको जीवन संग खेलवाड गर्दैछन् भन्ने कुरा बोध हुन्छ। के चिया बगानहरु पृथ्वीमा नभएर अर्कै ग्रहमा छन् जहाँ कोरोनाको खतरा छैन ? के चिया बगानको मजदुरहरु 'Right to life and safety' देखि वञ्चित छन्? बंगाल सरकारले DTA अनि CCPA को मांगलाई स्वीकार गर्नु नै मजदुरहरुको विरुद्ध उभिनु हो। यस्तो अमानवीय सोंचको हामी कडा शब्दमा खण्डन गर्छौ।
जब सम्पूर्ण विश्वनै एकबद्ध भइ यो महामारीको विरुद्ध संघर्ष गर्न कम्मर कसी रहेको छ भने यहाँ दार्जीलिंगमा चाहिं केहि तुच्छ विचार भएका चिया कमानका मालिकहरु र उनीहरुका चम्चाहरुले DTA र CCPA को संकीर्ण स्वार्थ पूर्ति हेतु कमानको काम बन्द हुन नदिने निर्णय लिएको छ। विधित नै छ कि चिया कमानमा काम गर्ने मजदूरहरु अधिकांश नै गोर्खा अनि आदिवासी समुदायकाहरु छन्। त्यसैले मालिक पक्षको कमानलाई सुचारु राख्ने निवेदनले उनीहरुको क्रुर परजीवी मानसिकतालाई अभिव्यक्त गर्दछ। DTA अनि CCPA ले मजदूरहरुलाई कामबाट केहि दिन विश्राम, राशन पानी, अग्रिम बेतन आदि सुविधाहरु प्रदान गर्नको सट्टा कमानको काम चालु राख्ने निवेदन टक्राई आफ्नो शोषक परजीवी प्रवृतिको झलक स्पष्ट देखाएको छ। हामी मालिक पक्षको यो अमानवीय निर्णयको कडा शब्दमा भत्सर्ना गर्दछौ अनि यो संकटको समयमा मजदुरवर्ग संग काँधमा काँध मिलाई उनीहरुको अधिकारको निम्ति आवाज उठाउन कटिबद्ध छौ।

यसर्थ सरकार समक्ष हामी यो मांग राख्दछौ कि भारत लॉकडाउनको अवधि चियाकमानहरु सम्पूर्ण रुपमा बन्द राखियोस अनि चिया श्रमिकहरुलाई अग्रिम वेतन, राशन पानी, स्वास्थ्य सेवा र अन्य सहुलियतहरु समयमा प्रदान गरियोस्!

सरकारी स्वास्थ्य व्यवस्थाको हालत बुझी सकेको छौं, हामी आफै सचेत र सावधान भएर घर भित्र नै बसौं, शारीरिक दुरी पालन गरेर कोरोनाको प्रकोपबाट बाचौं र अरुलाई पनि बचाउँ!   
      
गोर्खा स्टूडेंट्स, जे.ऐन.यू               ०२.०४.२०२०

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

Seventh / 7th Pay Commission approved by the Union Cabinet, 24% Salaries, Pensions Hike

8:17 PM
29th June 2016 Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the recommendations made by the 7th pay commission. Overall increase in Salaries and allowances will rise by at least 23.5 per cent, which had been recommended by the 7th Pay Commission - the panel that decides on government salaries. Arrears will be paid within this year. The 7th Pay Commission report will be effective from January 1, and the Cabinet will decide if the arrears for the six months have to be paid in one go or in installments.

Under the new scheme, the maximum salary for a government servant will be about 2.5 lakhs a month, that's more than double the highest pay of Rs. 90,000  a month. Gratuity has been increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh and House Building Advance was raised from Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley accepted the recommendation to increase minimum pay from existing Rs 7,000 to Rs 18,000 per month which is more than double of the present Rs. 7,000.

Up to 15% hike in basic salaries of central government staff and similar big raises in allowances and pensions that will benefit some 10 million employees. For junior employees, the hike in basic pay will be 14.27%. This means a fresh IAS recruit will get a basic salary of Rs 56,000 a month against Rs 23,000 now, while a sepoy in the Indian Army will earn Rs 21,700 a month from Rs 8,460 at present. In addition, employees are paid dearness allowance and house rent among many other allowances.
7th Pay Commission approved by the Union Cabinet
7th Pay Commission approved by the Union Cabinet

In a nutshell
# House Building Advance (HBA) increased from Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh.
# Gratuity increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.
# Rate of increment recommended and accepted at 3% per year.
# Separate pay matrices for civil, Defence and MNS.
# MoF to work out a customised group insurance scheme with low premium and high risk cover.

# Ex-gratia lump sum compensation for civil and defence forces personnel from 10-20 lakh to 25-45 lakh.
# Minimum pay of Rs 18,000 per month recommended against the existing Rs 7,000.
# Based on Minimum Pay, fitment factor of 2.57 approved for revising pay of all employees uniformly across all Level: Jaitley.
# The cost of implementing the recommendations of the 7th pay commission will cost Rs 1,02,100 crore to the exchequer: Jaitley.

Last year in November the pay panel had recommended 14.27 per cent hike in basic pay at junior levels, the lowest in 70 years.The 6th Pay Commission had recommended a 20 per cent hike which was doubled by the government while implementing it in 2008.

The government had in January set up the high-powered panel for the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission.

For the 7th Pay Commission effective from January 1 2016 Cabinet will decide if the arrears for the six months have to be paid in one go or in installments.

"Considering the tight fiscal position this year, the government may improve upon the Pay Commission recommendation for basic pay to 18 per cent or at best 20 per cent," a senior official said.

Here is your 10-point cheat-sheet to this big story:

  1. The move will benefit an estimated 10 million government employees including nearly 60 lakh pensioners, starting from January 1, 2016. Among the defence services, 14 lakh serving officers and 18 lakh retired members will be covered.
  2. Arrears will be paid within this year, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
  3. The last major hike in 2008 saw an average raise of nearly 50 percent. The auto and retail sectors gained in the stock market after today's announcement.
  4. The increments - considerably smaller than past increases-  will cost the government about one lakh crores or 15 billion dollars every year.
  5. While this cost is a whopping 0.7 percent of India's GDP, the hike is the lowest in the last seven decades.
  6. The new allowances and hikes were cleared by the cabinet today and are based on the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission - a government committee which reviews the pay of government employees nearly every decade.
  7. Government workers also have been getting half-yearly and annual increments linked to prices. The new rules do away with 52 allowances and merge 36 others.
  8. Under the new scheme, the maximum salary for a government servant will be about 2.5 lakhs a month, that's more than double the top-rung pay of Rs. 90,000 a month.
  9. The least a government officer can now be paid is  Rs. 18,000 a month, more than double the current compensation of Rs. 7,000 offered to the most  junior employees.
  10. The government is counting on the higher salaries to result in more consumer spending which could trigger economic growth.However, some experts believe that the additional cash in the market could fuel inflation. To keep a check on price rise driven by greater liquidity in the market, the government plans to keep a close eye on the mark


7th Pay Commission Bill Pass with Merge 50% DA

12:38 AM
18th Jun 2016 Good News for Central Government Employee: 7th Pay Commission Bill Pass with Merge 50% DA. Waiting for all central government employees is over by declaring this good news. 50 percentages DA is merge in Basic pay is finally accepted by central government of India. This will affect form 01-01-2016.

Highlights of 7th Pay Commission Benefits
  1. Minimum Pay is 21000 per month.
  2. There is no Grade pay system. Only pay scale is there.
  3. Retirement Age is 60 years or 33 year of service which is first it is applicable. Read Full Article
  4. This salary Increment is implemented from 01-01-2016. This will be effective from 01 August 2016 in central government.
  5. Arrears will be given in one installment.
  6. The final report by the 13-member Committee of Secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha may be submitted on June 18.
  7. Seventh Pay Commission Panel had recommended 23.55% hike in salary. But now it may be 30% hike said by news.

As per Media Report the secretaries group may recommended a 30 percent increase in minimum and maximum basic pay structures along with doubling of existing rates of allowances and advances.
7th Pay Commission Bill Pass with Merge 50% DA
7th Pay Commission Bill Pass with Merge 50% DA
The 7th Pay Commission had suggested a maximum basic pay of Rs 2,50,000 and a minimum of Rs 18,000. A 30 percent increase would translate into maximum monthly salary of Rs 3,25,000 and minimum at Rs 23,400, respectively.

From 1st August this all recommendation will be implemented. And from this month you will get your new increased salary.

Arrears will be given in in only one installment.

Calculate Your New Pay Scale
Download Above Image.
See your Current Pay scale and Grade Pay. In Last column there is a new Initial Pay as per seventh pay commission. This is expected pay scale and initial salary.

OR

 

Via 7thpaycommission




GJM Demands Land Rights for Tea Garden Workers - Minimum Salary of Rs 322/-

7:22 AM
A high level delegation of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha led by its president Bimal Gurung and Darjeeling Lok Sabha MP SS Ahluwalia called on the Union commerce and industries minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Delhi and served her a memorandum placing various demands on behalf of the tea garden workers.

The memorandum places two very important demands:
1. Bringing the tea gardens under the purview of Minimum Wages Act.
2. Increasing salary of tea garden workers to Rs. 322 /- as of September 2013.
3. Issuing Land Rights to the tea garden workers
4. Reopening of all the shut down gardens in the region.
The minister has assured that she is keeping a close eye on the plight of the tea garden workers and will take necessary steps to remedy the situation at the earliest.

The GJM delegation highlighted number of important issues relating to the tea industry in Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars region to Smt Nirmala Sitharam.

The first related to bringing all tea garden workers in these areas immediately under the Minimum Wages Act 1948. It is sad and unfortunate that thousands and thousands of tea workers employed in the plantations in these areas till this day continue to earn a pittance that is decided by the tea garden management. This notwithstanding the fact that in the rest of the country workers in scheduled employment enjoy benefits under the Minimum Wages Act 1948.
GJM Demands Land Rights for Tea Garden Workers


GJM immediate plea was that the Wages/Salary of Staffs, Sub-Staffs and workers needs to be regulated without any further delay, by including the tea workers in the Scheduled Employments under the Minimum Wages Act 1948. The current wages should be calculated taking into account the overall inflation, AICP Index and Minimum Wages Act with an effort to meet the basic needs of the Plantation Labours. The Wages of Workers should be calculated starting from Rs. 322 /- as of September 2013. DA payable to the Staffs and Sub-Staffs should be calculated scientifically by giving priority to yearly AICP Index.

The second issue related to death of 22 persons by malnutrition so far in the tea gardens of Darjeeling Terai and Dooars since May 12, 2015. The starvation/malnutrition deaths due to closure of tea gardens are as follows; Panighatta 5, Hantupara 3, Dumsipara 6, Bagrakote 7, Nagaisjree 1. Considering the sensitive situation in these closed tea gardens, there is an urgent need for intervention by the Centre so that more lives are not lost.

Presently many tea gardens in the Dooars region have remained closed and death toll due to starvation/ malnutrition has reached over 1000 since 2002. Due to the lack of basic living amenities like calorie-based food, medical facilities, potable drinking water, access to alternative employment opportunities and minimal wages, human trafficking, especially child trafficking is rampant in the region, and even the local social organizations and government agencies seem to be unable to handle and curb the growing instances of trafficking activities.

Besides these closed tea gardens, there are some other tea gardens also which have faced closure for some time now. The GJM delegation appealed to the Central government to take immediate steps to ensure that these closed gardens begin operations without any further delay so that workers are able to work and get their rightful due.

The issue of granting Pattas (Land rights) to the tea garden workers in all tea gardens is another demand of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which we have been seeking. We would like to request that the Centre intervene in this regard so that landless tea garden workers, who have been deprived of land for generations now, will finally be able to own a piece of land.

The Darjeeling and Dooars tea are famous world over. The Darjeeling tea has been accorded the Geographical Indicator (GI) status by the World Trade Organization, making it one of the most well recognized brands of tea across the world. Notwithstanding this deep market penetration by ‘Indian tea,’ the huge working population – more than 4 lakhs permanent member, out of which more than three lakh permanent workers are there in the Districts of Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, who are engaged in the tea sector in West Bengal.

The GJM delegation has appealed to the Hon'ble Minister to visit the tea gardens of North Bengal & Darjeeling and see the situation in reality. The Hon'ble Minister said that she is closely monitoring the situation of tea garden industry in North Bengal.

Via TheDC & dstv darjeeling

Darjeeling Orange crisis probe

1:16 PM
Writes Vivek Chhetri and Rajeev Ravidas

Darjeeling, Nov. 27: The state government has decided to investigate the recent spate of fungal infection and pest attacks on Darjeeling oranges that dropped the yield of the fruit by more than 50 per cent compared to last year.

State agricultural minister Purnendu Bose who is currently in Darjeeling said: "This is my first official visit to the hills after becoming minister. A team of scientists from Uttar Banga Krishi Visvavidyalaya will probe into the matter (the infection and pest attacks) and based on the report, we will take appropriate steps."

While 2.5 lakh quintals of oranges were produced in the hills last year, this time the yield is expected to be around 90,000 quintals.

Sources said 50 to 60 per cent of oranges in the hills were destroyed after a fungal infection and pest attacks.
Darjeeling Orange
Darjeeling Orange A file photo
The harvest season starts from November end and goes on till mid-January.

M.W. Moktan, a senior scientist and the in-charge of Darjeeling Krishi Vigyan Kendra, a unit of Uttar Banga Krishi Visvavidyalaya, Cooch Behar, spoke about three reasons for the spread of infection and pest attacks in the hill orchards.

"The main reason is that the farmers still practise the traditional method of farming and they are reluctant to adopt new technology. The other reason is that they do not follow proper nutritional management system, which is critical for the health of plants. Climate change, too, has affected the crops," he said.

Moktan, however, said that all was not lost and oranges could be saved if farmers took up modern methods. "Few farmers who have incorporated modern farming methods have not been affected. Disease and pest management must be done properly," he said.

Ram Prasad Sanyal, the assistant director of agriculture department, GTA, had earlier said that a spell of dry weather during the flowering season around March and April was one of the reasons for the drop in orange production.

Today, Bose said: "The agriculture department is acting as a nodal agency in bringing together departments like horticulture and fisheries. In the hills, there are seven seed farms but most are defunct. We plan to revive them. There was an agriculture fair in Kalimpong yesterday and I visited the stalls. While some farmers are trained, many are not. A building of the agriculture department in Kalimpong is lying without use. We will renovate it and start an agricultural training centre there."

Source Telegraph

Tea Joint Forum campaigns against Trinamul in Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad

11:59 AM
Leaders of the Joint Forum, the apex body of 24 trade unions of tea plantation workers, have said they will campaign for the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad polls with a plea to voters to keep Trinamul Congress at bay.

If Trinamul could be defeated in the three-tier rural polls, they said, the experiment will be replicated in the Assembly elections also.

Similar to the "Siliguri model", the initiative is the result of the success the forum could script earlier this year by getting tea planters to offer a good hike in the wages for the workers.

The forum's constituents are tea garden wings of the trade unions affiliated to the Congress, Left parties and other organisations.

Trinamul has three trade unions in the tea belt and none of them are members of the forum.
Darjeeling and Dooars Tea Workers Relief Organization - DAWN's photo
Darjeeling and Dooars Tea Workers Relief Organization - DAWN's photo
"We succeeded in getting a decent hike in wages, compared to previous pay rise. Besides, the state was forced to form an advisory committee to recommend minimum wages for tea garden workers. All these would not have been possible but for the initiative of the Joint Forum. The role of Trinamul's trade unions was not up to the mark during the wage talks," said Ziaur Alam, the Jalpaiguri district secretary of the Citu.

"In our campaign for the SMP polls, we are insisting that the workers join hands to achieve their rights and simultaneously ensure the development of their villages and their socio-economic uplift. It is necessary to maintain the unity so that the state government, which is not taking any step against tea planters accused of violating workers' rights and privileges, is forced to act," he added.

A senior Citu leader based in Darjeeling district said the forum's message was in consonance with the one passed on by the Left Front to voters in the SMP area and other parts of north Bengal.

"The Left Front has appealed to people to vote for any competent candidate other than the nominees fielded by Trinamul. The message was sent to stop Trinamul from coming to power at the SMP. In a similar manner, we are making it clear that the Trinamul trade unions have failed to meet the aspirations of the workers and could not fulfil their demands, though their party is in power in the state," said the Citu leader who didn't want to be named.

Elections to the SMP and by-polls to several other rural bodies in north Bengal will be held on October 3.

The trade unions said they intended to carry out a similar campaign in the 2016 Assembly elections.

"Trinamul has many trade unions for tea plantation labourers and it has created confusion among the workers. We will highlight this aspect during the campaign for the Assembly elections to keep Trinamul at bay. We are also expecting support from the trade union of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha which has taken a vehement anti-Trinamul stance," said an INTUC leader in Jalpaiguri.

If the tea plantation workforce is united under the banner of the Joint Forum, Trinamul will be in a tight position in at least 11 Assembly segments in north Bengal.

Four constituencies in Darjeeling district, one constituency in North Dinajpur district, three constituencies each in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts have a substantial population of tea garden workers.

In 2011, despite having an alliance with the Congress, Trinamul was defeated in the constituencies where it had fielded candidates. The Congress won the seats where it contested.

Alok Chakraborty, the working president of Trinamul Tea Plantation Workers' Union, said the forum's efforts wouldn't succeed.

"It was our government that forced a substantial hike in wages. The Left never thought of implementing the minimum wages but our government took an initiative in that direction. Attempts by some unions to deter Trinamul from making inroads into the tea belt will not work," he said.

Source Telegraph

Bagdogra airport will not be shifted to Bihar

12:56 PM
The Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation and Tourism, Dr Mahesh Sharma has made it clear that the Bagdogra airport which caters to the need of not only domestic passengers but also that of neighboring China, Nepal and Bhutan will not be shifted to Bihar and on the other hand the Pakyong airport in Sikkim will be developed soon.
Bagdogra airport
Bagdogra airport
Talking to the reporters from the North East, Dr Sharma said that the Government has decided not to shift the airport from Bagdogra to Purnea in Bihar. The Sikkim Lok Sabha MP PD Rai had urged the government to desist from relocating the Bagdogra Airport, as it will affect not only domestic traffic within the region but also international passengers.

Rai mentioned that the airport acts as a ‘hub’ for tourists visiting Sikkim and Eastern Himalayas, including yatris travelling to Kailash Mansarovar through the recently opened Nathu La route. China has allowed a second and shorter route to Mansarovar through Sikkim recently.

Bagdogra is the only airport for Sikkim and North Bengal, that serves as the most important airport for a large area including Bhutan, Lower Assam, Eastern Bihar and Eastern Nepal, Rai said. It has vast economic and cultural importance for the people of Sikkim and North East, he added.
The Union Minister said that work is in full swing to make the Pakyong airport in Sikkim operational. Tourist inflow both foreign and domestic to North East mainly Sikkim has increased recently.

The Pakyong airport spread over 400 hectares of land is an airport under construction near Gangtok. It is the first Greenfieldairport to be constructed in the North Eastern Region of India and the only airport in Sikkim.

Via VOS

“Darjeeling Anthurium” started by GTA at Devitar in Jamuni

10:54 AM
GTA
The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has started the cultivation and marketing of the tropical anthurium flower and has plans to convert it into a brand, following in the footsteps of the Darjeeling tea. GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung inaugurated the “Darjeeling Anthurium” project at Devitar in Jamuni 16 km from Darjeling town on Tuesday.
“Darjeeling Anthurium”
“Darjeeling Anthurium” started  by GTA at Devitar in Jamuni
The project estimated at Rs 2.5  crore has been set up in two ploy houses where 14 varieties of anthuriums are being cultivated. GTA had brought 50000 anthurium plants from Rigin Plants in Holland and planted them in the two ‘poly-houses.’

GTA has already got orders for 500 anthurium plants from Delhi. “It is a good beginning as we have already got orders from Delhi for the tropical anthurium plant and talks are in progress with links in Kolkata. We have also started the marketing process in other parts of the country,” said GTA Horticulture department secretary Sonam Bhutia.
“Darjeeling Anthurium”
Anthurium at “Darjeeling Anthurium”
Unlike in Sikkim where only three varieties are cultivated, the GTA has 14 varieties of anthuriums plants in the two ploy houses at Jamuni. The 14 varieties are according to the different colours. These include princess alexia mint, princess alexia red, first yellow, first red, orange queen and mick jagger among the others.

GTA will set up a cold storage room at Chowrastha with sale counter to market and promote the anthuriums, locally. “We are planning to start sell of the plant locally from October, later this year. The project is feasible because of helpful climate of the region and also because these plants can be grown throughout the year,” Bhutia said.

This was the first phase of the project and plans were also afoot to establish a horticulture park in Darjeeling along with other ornamental plants.

GTA Horticulture senior scientific officer Mahadev Chehttri said: “There are about 50,000 plants in the two poly houses for these plans especially for the plants. Each plant can give about 10 to 12 flowers as they grow the whole year round. Annually, we will be able to generate about 500,000 of cut flowers and sold at Rs.15 to 20 for each cut flower, according to the market price”. According to Chhetri, the plants could survive for about seven years and the flowers could be kept roughly for about six weeks after being cut.

The GTA chief executive was positive that the project would be successful but said a lot more was needed to be done. “The project has been made at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore and there are more things need to be done here like fencing for which more funds will be required. The project here will not only generate employment and revenue but we feel that it will also encourage farmers to grow such plants, “he said.

Gurung was also of the opinion that the project being near Jamuni would be an added attraction for tourists visiting the area. The council is developing Jamuni as a tourist spot where a boating facility is already available with the scenic mountain back-ground and tourist huts along the Chota Rangit river. A Mughal type garden and swimming pool facilities will also developed in the coming days.

Source: EOI


WB Government Proposes only a Hike of Rs 42.50 in Staggered Phase for Tea Garden Workers

11:30 AM
The state labour department today issued a draft wage agreement proposing a staggered hike of Rs 42.50 a day for workers in the hills and Rs 37.50 for those in the plains for the next three years.
WB Government Proposes only a Hike of Rs 42.50 in Staggered Phase for Tea Garden Workers
Tea Garden in the hill
Officials said they would wait for five days for suggestions from tea trade unions and planters.

The draft proposed a hike of Rs 22.50 a day (retrospectively from April 1, 2014 up to April 2015) for workers in the hills, followed by a raise of Rs 10 for the next two years. It means, a total hike of Rs 42.50 per day in three years for hill tea workers who now get Rs 90 a day. For workers in the Terai and Dooars, the state has proposed a hike of Rs 17.50 daily (retrospectively from April 1, 2014 to April 2015) followed by an increase of Rs 10 for the next two years. This translates to a total hike of Rs 37.50 for those who earn Rs 95 per day now.

The Joint Forum, a common platform of 23 trade unions, has said it would not sign the draft as it does not mention anything concrete about fixing the minimum wage. The forum has, however, said that it will hold talks with the constituent members on December 19 to take the final call.

After the talks at Uttarkanya here this afternoon, state labour minister Malay Ghatak said: “With today’s talks, eight rounds of tripartite meetings have been held to decide the revised rates of wages that is due since April 1 this year. Today, we placed a draft agreement before the trade unions and tea planters.”

He added: “They (the planters and unions) have been asked to go through it and submit their suggestions to our department in five days. We would wait for the next five days. Once we receive their opinions, we will sit and discuss with our officials and move ahead towards signing the agreement.”

The draft proposed an additional Re 1 per day for tea hands who work for five days a week and Rs 2.50 a day for those who work for six days a week. “There is a proposal to introduce attendance allowance which would be an additional sum over the revised rate of wage. This would discourage absenteeism and encourage workers to join duties,” a senior official in the labour department said.

The draft also proposed that arrears — as the hike would be effective from April 1 this year — would be paid in three instalments by August 31 next year.

Ziaur Alam, the convenor of the Joint Forum and the Jalpaiguri district Citu secretary, said: “The state is trying to help planters by advocating another three-year wage agreement with a hike on an ad hoc basis. But nothing much has been mentioned in it about our demand to fix the minimum wages. We feel that if the agreement is signed, the process to formulate the minimum wage would be delayed for another three years. We are not ready to sign the agreement.”

He said the Joint Forum would inform the state labour department of its decision.

A Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations representative said: “The gesture is good but we need to discuss the rates among ourselves. There are other issues pertaining to workers. We want these to be incorporated.”

Dola Sen, state president of the INTTUC, the Trinamul workers’ union which is not a part of the Joint Forum, said: “We feel the agreement should be signed at the earliest. Some unions are trying to do politics and delaying the negotiation process because of their own interests. We condemn such acts and we would hold a public convention here on December 22 to apprise workers about the wrong intentions.”

Source: Telegtraph


Trade unions of the hills and plains united for Minimum Wage Act

11:23 AM
Trade unions of the hills and plains comprising the United Tea Workers’ Forum, the Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers and the Defense Committee for Plantation Workers’ Rights today united under a single platform to demand the implementation of the Minimum Wage Act in the region’s tea gardens and threatened to launch an agitation if the state government fails to take heed.

Trade unions of the hills and plains united for Minimum Wage Act
Trade unions' representatives meeting in
Darjeeling over wage issue.
Twenty-one trade unions from the Darjeeling hills and the Terai and the Dooars barring those of the TMC and the GNLF convened a joint conference in Darjeeling that was a follow up of the June 21 meeting in Chalsa.

“There are myriad problems plaguing the tea industry, but the primary one is that of workers’ pay, which is out of sync with the present times. We have already held four bipartite and tripartite meetings with the state government and garden managements, but nothing has materialised so far,” said Zia-ul-Alam, general secretary of the CPM-affiliated Chia Kaman Majdoor Union.

The trade unions said they will hold gate meetings for an hour at their respective gardens on July 24 and 25 to press forward the demand.

“We hear that the fifth round of the talks has been postponed and we condemn this because it is part of the state government’s ploy to create friction between unions. If we don’t get a positive response from the state government after the gate meetings, we will be forced to take recourse to strikes,” threatened Alam, adding their demand will also be placed in Parliament through the respective parties of the trade unions.

Accusing the state government of aligning with the garden managements, the trade unions demanded the minimum wage be fixed on a systematic basis for all worker categories.

“After the deaths of workers due to starvation in six closed tea gardens, the state government has finally accepted gardens have problems. The state government must work for the “majdoor” and not the management,” said Alam.
He added, “A pattern has to be followed while fixing the wage of workers. We want a basic pay system along with VDA, which is presently not being followed.”

The unions want the basic wage of workers to be fixed at Rs322 per day with ration facilities unlike the negotiable Rs90 and Rs95 the hills and plains garden workers are getting at present, respectively. However, the TMC-affiliated

Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress wants the basic wage to be kept at Rs206.

“What the TMC trade union is demanding applies to the agriculture sector, but we fall under the industrial skilled sector and therefore, the rate of Rs206 cannot be applicable to us,” said PT Sherpa, president of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-affiliated Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labor Union.

Incidentally, INTTUC president Dola Sen on her maiden visit to Darjeeling on July 15 had made it clear that any rate above Rs206 may not be possible even as she admitted the amount was low. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently announced in Darjeeling the state government would give Rs1,500 to each worker of closed tea gardens till the time the gardens reopen.

Source:EOI

India and Nepal cross border trade felicitation seminar to strengthen the relationship

9:41 AM
To strengthen the relationship and to discuss about the issues on the cross border felicitation of export and import between India and Nepal, a seminar was organized by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in association with Consulate General of Nepal at Siliguri last evening.

 India and Nepal cross border trade felicitation seminar held in Siliguri
 India and Nepal cross border trade felicitation seminar 
Prabir Seal Chairman, CII North Bengal, said Cross-border trade through the Kakarivitta-Panitanki trade channel has been flourishing over the years, so has the bilateral economic ties between the two neighboring countries.

CII and FNCCI had formed the Joint Task Force in 1995 and the Task Force report suggested avenues for enhancing foreign trade not only in goods but also included services such as tourism, hydro power, education services, health services etc.

“Change for betterment begins at the grassroots and CII North Bengal in synchronization with the Consulate of Nepal and the support of relevant authorities can facilitate a more robust and vibrant trade relation between India and Nepal aiming at mutual benefits,” he added.

Chandra Kumar Ghimire, Consul General of Nepal, said certain items Nepal has been exporting to India through Kakarvitta-Panitanki are mainly agriculture produces being grown in the eastern part of Nepal. Among the goods, major ones include high value crops such as ginger, fresh vegetables, tea, cardamom, medicinal herbs, aromatic and essential oils, seasonal fruits etc. For last couple of years, such produces need to meet certain compliance at the border point, he added.

When it comes to the border facility placed at Kakarvitta-Panitanki , Panitanki – Siliguri road is now well renovated, once imposed illicit tax over Nepal cargo has been lifted up or removed. The presence of customs’ Assistant Commissioner is available at Panitanki Customs thrice a week. Once complicated procedures required at Banglabandh-Fulbari have been simplified. Yet, some classical hitches are waiting for greater attention to sort them out. At a time when both the governments are discussing over customs modernization, traders speak of lack of lab test facility, insufficient quarantine amenities, distant bank in 7-8 Km, lower threshold allowed in the bank for businesses transaction and scanty parking facility.

Deepening integration to make it a reality for effective business, lowering the cost of doing business, Increasing clarities, transparency, traceability, avoiding red tape by standardizing technology with simplification, harmonization of documents and procedures are key for trade between the two countries to flourish, Ghimire observed.

Source: EOI

Mirik bird watching to attract tourists

9:54 AM
Mirik: In the ongoing process to make Mirik a major tourism destination in the hills, enthusiasts have identified bird watching as another key attraction for tourism in the hills. According to Himalayan Bird Watching Society, Mirik is a perfect location to find many species of Himalayan birds due to its undisturbed wilderness which is conducive for bird habitat.

Some of the Birds found in the region:


Satyr Trogopan.
Satyr Trogopan.
Himalayan Bulbul.
Himalayan Bulbul.
 Himalayan Monal.
 Himalayan Monal.
Blood Pheasant.
Blood Pheasant.
HBWS coordinator Suren Subba informed there are about 300 different species of bird that are found in the Mirik region, but his society has only been able to record citing of about 150 species. He said some of these birds are migratory, while others are residential birds. “It is important to work on the conservation of these birds and the best way to do that is promoting it through tourism and spreading the knowledge about their conservation,” he added.

Subba said the bird habitat in the region has been hampered by increasing population, environmental degradation, climate change, and especially the extensive development of high-tension towers and cell phone towers. Currently, Mirik is home to various species of birds which are endangered, including Water Crake, Laughing Thrush, Hill Maina, Red Head Barbet, White Checked Bulbul, Bhaditor Fly Catcher, Blood Pheasant, Satyr Trogopan, Himalayan Monal, Plain Type Cuckoo and Black Headed Shrike. He also said Mirik is home to the rare Sun Bird, but the lack of support from concerned department and the government has led to reduction in number of these birds.

Subba urged the GTA to look into the issue and include bird watching as another means to promote tourism in the region. “The initiative will not only help tourism, but also boost the efforts to conserve the birds and their habitat in Mirik, along with an option for youths to have another means of income as tour guides and bird specialists," he added.

Source- EOI

Tea union in Darjeeling hills and Terai and Dooars declines the raise of Rs 21

8:24 AM
Siliguri, June 18: Tripartite talks to raise tea workers’ wages in north Bengal today ended inconclusively after the planters’ body proposed a raise of Rs 21 over three years.

Tea workers in the hill tea garden
Tea workers in the hill tea garden
The wage rate, when decided, would be implemented in the Darjeeling hills as well as in plantations in the Terai and the Dooars.

At present, Darjeeling garden workers get Rs 90 a day and the Terai and Dooars hands get Rs 95.

One of the umbrella associations of unions has warned that it would call an industry-wide strike if wages were not raised according to its demand, but there is no unanimity in the strike demand.

Two rounds of tripartite talks were held on February 25 and March 22, but today was the first time the Consultative Committee of Plantation Association — the body of estate owners — proposed a revised wage, a rate which the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union called an “insult to the workers”.

The union is backed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the main party in the Darjeeling hills. The Co-ordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers, an umbrella organisation of several garden unions, said it wanted “fair negotiations” and the planters’ proposal was “unacceptable”.

Chitta Dey, the convener of the committee, said: “On June 21 we will hold a meeting in Chulsa (in the Dooars) and might go for an industry-wide strike.” The joint labour commissioner M.D. Rizwan said the next meeting would be held in a fortnight. Today’s meeting at Uttarkanya was attended by state labour commissioner Javed Akhtar.

The new wage rate would be deemed effective from April 1 this year. Arrears would be paid to the workers for the days they did not get the revised wages since April 1.

Different unions have sought different wage rates.

Samir Roy, the convener of the Defence Committee for Plantation Workers’ Rights, one of the several umbrella groups, said it wanted a daily wage of Rs 338 for tea workers.

“The MGNREGA rate in Bengal is Rs 169 for unskilled workers. For skilled workers, it should be double, that is Rs 338 per day. We want wages at the same rate for tea workers,” Roy said.

Aloke Chakraborty, the working president of Trinamul Tea Plantation Workers’ Union, said it wanted the wages to be Rs 206 a day. The Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union has also asked for the same rate.

The minimum wage rate for Bengal is Rs 206.

“We want minimum wages to be paid to tea workers. We have heard that some of the trade unions have threatened to go on strike. We would like to assert that our trade union is against strikes in the industry and would strive to keep the situation normal,” Chakraborty said.

Planters’ representatives cited adverse conditions in the industry for the Rs 21 wage raise over three years. “Our proposal was based on the realistic assessment of the industry. The crops are down because of inclement weather and there has been a rise in the cost of production,” said Prabir Bhattacharjee, secretary general of the Tea Association of India.

Source: Telegraph

DAWN Trade Union Demands Rs 350 Wages for Tea Gardens

10:01 AM
Darjeeling and Dooars Tea Workers Relief Organization - DAWN Trade Union Demands Rs 350 Wages for Tea Gardens

Ahead of the third tripartite meet on revision of remuneration for tea workers, which would be held at Uttarkanya on 18 June, the North Bengal Tea Plantation Employees Union, affiliated to the All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), has demanded a minimum wage of Rs 350 for a tea worker a day. The union is scheduled to stage an agitation in the Terai and the Dooars from 22 to 29 June if the third tripartite meeting too ends inconclusively.

Deplorable Living Condition of Tea Worker
Deplorable Living Condition of Tea Worker by Pallawib for DAWN

Leaders of the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI)-backed AIUTUC, demanded that the state government take initiatives to settle the tea workers’ wage issue soon.

“But the present state government is following the footsteps of the erstwhile government. The government should declare implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in tea plantations. The erstwhile Left Front government had promised to enact minimum wages in the plantations, but failed,” AIUTUC leaders said.

The three-year tripartite wage agreement for tea workers ended on 31 March and two tripartite meetings were held in Siliguri, but the fate of the tea workers still hangs in the balance. AIUTUC leaders also pointed out that the wage issue was settled after three years, but poverty-stricken workers were being deprived every time he settlement is reached, as the wage is less than the wages given by the Minimum Wages Act.

“We have calculated that the minimum wage of a tea worker should be Rs 350. We will accept the proposal of the tea management if we feel it is justified during the tripartite meeting among planters, trade unions and the state government,” the AIUTUC leaders said.“Wage settlement would be meaningless if it is done without including the variable dearness allowance (VDA),” North Bengal Tea Plantation Employees Union general secretary Abhijit Roy said. “We demand VDA for tea workers,” he added.

Source : SNS

Huge inflow of tourists boosts hill tourism sector

8:51 AM
Tourism sector stakeholders of the hills have got a morale booster given the huge inflow of tourists right from the beginning of this year’s tourism season. As per industry sources, tourist footfalls have increased this year to what can be termed as ‘sufficient’.

Huge inflow of tourists boosts hill tourism sector
Most visitors are domestic, fleeing the sweltering heat of the country’s plains, and they are giving hoteliers and travel service providers in the hills an opportunity to revel.

Tourist inflows that started surging from mid-March had reached their peak by the end of May. Huge crowds of visitors could be seen across hotels and resorts in Lava, Resep, Loleygaon, Kafer, Reshi and Pedong, the hotspots under Kalimpong sub-division.

Rajeeb Shahi, who runs a resort in Resep, a new tourist spot near Lava, told this correspondent he is satisfied with the number of visitors his place received from across the country. He said the inflow of tourists in the summer season usually starts from mid-March and it was satisfactory enough this year, but he was surprised to witness visitor numbers increasing exponentially with May’s onset.

The sources said footfalls will decline by mid-June as the rainy season begins then, but they will rise again by October. Hotel bookings for October have already begun, they added.

“Despite the acute shortage of water and the poor condition of the roads here, the number of tourists is increasing each year,” said Shahi, who is also the president of the Resep Hotel Owners’ Association. “Had the concerned government departments focused on developing infrastructure for promoting tourism further, the industry would have scaled new heights.”             

Hotel owners and other industry players in Kalimpong rally behind Shahi in his observations. Lenin Chettri, a taxi driver, acknowledged earnings this season have been good and the region’s tourism industry, which had been severely disrupted by political unrest in the recent past, is gradually regaining its lost verve. He wished the town’s economy well give the present state of affairs.

PRADEEP LOHAGUN
Source: EOI


HIMUL not paying to dairy farmers in the hills

11:02 PM
HIMUL Leaves Hill Dairy Farmers and Employees in a Lurch

The West Bengal state government-run Himalayan Cooperative Milk Producers' Union Limited (HIMUL) has left dairy farmers in the hills in a precarious condition due to non-payment of dues owing to the farmers. HIMUL has also left present and formers employees stranded by not paying their provident fund, leave salary, arrears and gratuity.

HIMUL not paying to dairy farmers in the hills

HIMUL which was based on the same set up as AMUL was seen as a money churning and revenue surplus entitty, however due to lack of proper management Himul has had to curtail their total milk production and processing from around 30000 liters per day to nearly 7000 liters per day.

As a result, HIMUL has not been able to pay dairy farmers in the hills and also its employees. Both the dairy farmers and the ex-employees are in a state of sever economic distress brought about by mismanagement. Despite numerous promises by the West Bengal government, nothing has been done to remedy the situation. Speaking to TheDC a dairy farmer from Rimbick said, "esto mahina-mahina paisa na diyera k gareko Himula le nbhan nos taa?? hamee kaa bato judaunu? gareeb ko paisa maryera sarkar lai k faida?" [What are they trying to do by not paying the farmers for months on an end now? what will the government gain by not paying us poor people?].

Both the hill farmers and the ex-employees are pinning their hopes on West Bengal CM Mamta Mamata Banerjee to help clear their dues.

Traditional Himalayan paper industry potential high in the hills

9:00 AM
Kalimpong: The traditional Himalayan paper industry is known by different names. The Tibetans call is Tibetan paper, Gorkha people call it Gorkhali paper and the rest of the Himalayan region call it the Himalayan paper, but whatever it may be called, the industry has a close connection with the people and calls it by the names they prefer. The entire Himalayan region is closely connected to the paper and there is a sense of ownership among everyone.

A women works at the Himalaya paper making factory in Kalimpong.
A women works at the Himalaya paper making factory in Kalimpong.
The Himalayan paper industry in the hills first started in Kalimpong and has its own little history. As soon as one talks about the paper one will find a whiff of Kalimpong’s air in it because such industries have always been supported here. The geographical location, history and the people have always been associated with such industries here.

The paper is crisp and white as any other normal papers, but in comparison to any other white paper the Himalaya paper is much more durable and valuable. Normal white papers are used for normal books and other usual utilities. However, due to the texture and durability of the Himalayan paper, it is basically used for religious manuscripts and other such usage that needs durability.

In Kalimpong, Himalayan papers are being manufactured since the past three decades and two such cottage industry is run by a Bhutia Family. ST Bhutia runs a paper factory at Primtam Road in the town, while his brother runs a similar factory at the SUMI area. ST Bhutia has been running the factory in Primtam Road since 1992 and has been producing Himalayan papers until today. Running under the name of Gyazong Paper Industry, Bhutia caters to the paper’s demand from Sikkim and Bhutan. The factory also provides employment to eight different family and according to Bhutia the industry is a family run business.

Bhutia informed he gained the knowledge about making such papers through a Japanese video documentary and with practice he mastered the art and has not looked back ever since. He said the key to the industry’s survival is the raw material used, and Kalimpong and surrounding areas have abundant supply of such material. Bhutia’s Primtam Road factory currently produces 200-300 sheets per day. Most of the sheets goes to the natural paper market of Sikkim and Bhutan, while some of them are used in other parts of the hills.

Although the industry is limited in the hills, its potential is high due to the easy availability of the raw materials and the available market in Sikkim and Bhutan along with other areas. The Industry like any other cottage industry in the hills does not have a support from the government. Bhitia said he too had applied for help from the government but it never materialised. Moreover the process and procedure required to avail government help is lengthy and difficult, he added. He says he is satisfied with what he has now and does not need any support.

Source: EOI

DAWN working to relief starving Red Bank tea garden workers

10:31 PM
It is Darjeeling Tea, which has granted Darjeeling a special place in the global map. But, unfortunately, it is not tea, which is grabbing headlines, but the tea garden workers dying due to starvation in the Red Bank tea estate in Dooars, which is gaining prominence every single day. 32 deaths have been reported since October 2013, where people are 'just surviving' without any food in their stomach. Their kitchen utensils have been left empty since long and no political party has come forward to save these workers, instead they turn a blind eye.

One fails to understand the lack of negligence by the Bengal government, which earns a huge share of revenue from Darjeeling tea. The government has always denied starvation. Not being able to solve problems is one thing, but completely ignoring it outright requires special courage and shame. People of Darjeeling have been a subject of subjugation for years now. 

DAWN rises in Darjeeling to save starving tea garden workers
DAWN rises in Darjeeling to save starving tea garden workers
Owing to such pathetic condition of the workers and irresponsible Bengal government, few youths of Darjeeling have decided to take the matter in their own hands. As a result, a group of like-minded people from different walks of life are putting in extra hours just to make sure that those hands, which plucked those first/second flush are looked after, not just today, but in the long term as well. The group is known as DAWN (Darjeeling & Dooars Tea Garden Workers Relief Organisation).

Supreet Raj, one of the members of the group said, ''We are here for the long run. Things might have just started, but we are on the right track. But, for the future, we need to provide employment to these tea garden workers.'' After the Red Bank tea garden came to a complete close, the workers are left with no scope to earn.

But, it is too early for the group to make any ambitious calls, as they have just kick started their initiative. In this short frame, they have gained a certain momentum in their project as they have already started to receive small funds from various local people in the hills. The funds as of now, have been outlined to provide relief to the tea garden workers in the form of ration.

Supreet added, ''The tea garden workers have limited skills. Besides, plucking leaves, they have no expertise. But, what we can do is provide them skill building training for carpentry, tailoring etc, which will help them earn for their living.'' This can give these workers the much needed employment to go outside their comfort zone and work in the neighbouring areas as well.

DAWN is not the only group, which is working towards providing relief to the starving workers. Team Who Cares is another similar group, which is doing an excellent job providing pulses, rice and other basic amenities to the people in the estate. On 18th of April, there were few such groups, who were doing voluntary service in the tea estate.

Pallawib Rai did all the ground work for DAWN, highlighting some important issues. He talked about his experience in the estate.

''Once we reached Red Bank tea garden, it was a different world all together. Poverty has painted a very sad and painful picture. We were aware about the conditions, but we were left startled, when we saw people in the garden with their torn clothes and residents mostly malnourished. It is no wonder that a tea garden, which has been shut for long will have to struggle for living, but we had not expected that people were surviving in such condition just few miles away from where we reside spending our life in utter comfort.''

''A meal for a day could dry their wet eyes. Faces were shrunk, eyes reflected hunger, bodies so deliberately show illness. There are people who have been ill for more than five months and the basic medical facility of their rural dispensary is too less for their disease. A good hospital in a big city is unaffordable for them, as they have no cash to take care of their ailing body, they rather count their days.''

''Water is a huge problem. There are big hand pumps installed by gram panchayat, which according to a local approximately gives 10 litres of water for 150 pumps. A secretary of local labour union Mr. Oraon believes 'hand pumps are real cause of TB.' It is strange to know that hand pump causes TB, but we can imagine how difficult it is to manually pump a hand pump hundred times for few litres of water on an empty stomach. The unfiltered water that literally tasted iron must be adding to diseases there. Most of the houses are in a pathetic state.''
The above description of Pallawib reflects the sorry state of the tea garden workers. One can draw comparison with the starving death related cases in Africa and other underdeveloped countries of the world. And with such pathetic untold condition, India claims to be one of the most developing countries. For the nation to develop, such issues need to be highlighted, else the disparity between the rich and the poor will only increase manifold, thus threatening such tea industries, which has been a subject of neglect for many years now. Will the government ever wake up?

''Death by starvation is what I found completely appalling and unacceptable. Indian tea industry boasts of of having over 20 percent global production and 12 percent international market share worth of billions of dollars. Even in the domestic market, tea is one of the most consumed products. And then, on the other side we have closed estates, abandoned gardens, unpaid workers, dying of hunger, in today's age, which is not justified, '' said Dhayan, one of the members of the group.

By - Ashim Sunam
Source: merinews.

Darjeeling Industrial Potential

12:06 PM
Potential industries in Darjeeling have been categorized in three groups namely:


RESOURCE-BASED INDUSTRIES

Food Processing» Darjeeling district alone produces approximately 90,000 tonnes of Pineapple, 20,000 tonnes of Oranges, 80,000 tonnes of Tomato per annum. Besides as much as 6,00,000 nos. of Oranges per day are available in peak season from Sikkim. These huge resources of raw fruits justifies setting up of an integrated plant for producing various items like Orange Squash, Orange Marmalade, Tomato Sauce, Vinegar, Juice, Pineapple rings, Frozen fruits etc.


Darjeeling Industrial Potential

Floriculture» Existing production of 60 MT of flowers in Darjeeling district and 20 MT available from Sikkim can easily be exploited. Besides flower cymbidiums, cypripedium and other orchards, cactuses, bulbs, gladiolie etc., which are in huge demand, are available in abundance. Tissue culture also has tremendous prospects. 

Pharmaceuticals» Darjeeling has the potential to come up as one of the most promising area for production of phytochemical and pharmaceutical products. Apart from the present exploitation of Chnchona bank for quinine and ipecac root for emetine, the following items have been identified:

Raserpin from Rauvolfia, Contraceptive pills and hormones from Dioscorea. Cardia glycosides from Digitalis, Alkalloids from Ergot, Atropine and Scopolamine from Daturas, Lemongrass oil, Palmarosa oil , Khas Khas Oil, Citronella Oil , Vinca Rosia.

The West Bengal Photochemical and Pharmaceutical Development Corporation has already been running one profit making unit in Toralpara in Jalpaiguri. The Forest Department of West Bengal has been producing 50,000 litres of Citronella oil per annum in Sukna Distillation Plant. The medicinal plants do not need big plots of land for their cultivation. They can well grow in forest, tea gardens and in other farming lands. Ginger products manufacturing, extraction of papein from papaya are other very lucrative possibilities. Darjeeling produces nearly 4,000 tonnes of ginger per annum most of which is sent out side the district without any processing.

Wood based industries» Large forest cover with abundant supply of wood, bamboo, cane etc. provides excellent opportunity for setting up of industries for manufacture of plywood, veneer, particle board from wood dust, wooden furniture, wood charcoal, cane furniture etc. 
Sericulture» Climate of Darjeeling district id ideally suited for mulberry cultivation, which does not require larger pieces of land. Further processing of cocoons at local level will ensure high value addition thereby increasing its acceptability amongst small farmers. 

Rubber Plantation» Darjeeling district also has ideal conditions for rubber plantation. Setting up of a rubber unit having its own rubber plantation will also encourage the small farmers of surrounding area to take up this activity and sell the rubber milk to the rubber unit.
Mining» A proven reserve of lead zince deposit of 3.256 million tonne with averager metal content of 8% upto a depth of 250 mtrs. In Goroubathan may be commercially exploited after a feasibility study in this regard. 

Natural caffeine is produced from tea wastes, which can be encouraged for commercial exploitation.

Animal resource based industries» Huge cattle population in Darjeeling provides and opportunity for a systematic approach for collection and processing of milk. Hides and skins, which are easily available, can be used to promote leather industry. Handicrafts based leather products exploiting traditional expertise have ready market due to tourist traffic large urban population also provides in opportunity for promotion of other animal resource based activities like poultry, dickery, piggery, and goatery.

DEMAND BASED INDUSTRIES

In keeping with the rising demand of cheap protein, Darjeeling district has been nurturing a number of buttom and oyster mushroom farms quite successfully. These farms require a little amount of land and local entrepreneurs are quite well equipped with the technology. The industry has excellent export potential as well.

Dust free and cool regions of Darjeeling could be utilized for promotion of Electronic and Software industry. Some tea industry based Electronic appliances identified by West Bengal Electronic Industry Development Corporation are, namely, Digital Thermometer, Electronic Pressure Gauge, Electronic Hygrometer, Sequential Timber, Electronic Thermometer, Automatic Temperature Controlling system, Multiple Peripheral Controller, Moisture Meter, Automatic Weighing system, Electronic Colour sawing system, Electronic Image Processing system.

The Concept of DTP (Desk Top Publishing) which has revolutionized the printing technology the world over, has opened a whole new world of innovative designing and publishing for the people engaged in printing, writing, designing, visualizing, advertising, commercial art etc. The burgeoning urban population in Siliguri, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Darjeeling is expected to make increasing demand on such sophisticated electronic media of printing.

TV Set Assembling TV Antenna Manufacturing has already seen quite a considerable number of profit making industrial enterprises in and around Siliguri. Similar enterprises could be set up in Darjeeling, K

Bio-fertilizer units have tremendous potential in view of adverse effects of chemical fertilizers on the quality fo tea in particular and other agricultural produce in general. There is also a possibility for processing the urban waste into organic manure which shall find ready market in the tea and other plantations. Siliguri Municipal Corporation area alone produces about 200 MT of garbage daily.

Household consumables and consumer durables both can be produced at Siliguri in view of large distribution network which can be used for marketing of these products in eastern India.
As a result of growth of small and medium industry around Siliguri there is a possibility of setting up of units for manufacturing of industrial spares, consumables, lubricants, automobile spares and other such articles of replaceable nature.

SKILL BASED INDUSTRIES

The artisans of these districts create exquisite varieties of ornaments, carpets, household articles, handicrafts, and other articles, which are widely acclaimed. The traditional cottage industries also include woolen garments, and cane and bamboo work. These cottage and handicraft industries however need proper marketing support through purchase, organising of handicraft exhibitions, formation of societies and guilds etc.

TOURISM BASED INDUSTRIES

Darjeeling needs wayside resorts at places like Sukna, Mirik, Teesta, Malli, Kurseong etc. where travelers could halt for brief rest and refreshment.
Big size highway hotels, catering to corporate conference and seminars are required for attracting business travel.

The existing and proposed hotels and extend their services to the local clientele and weekend tourists through swimming pools, Golf courses, family resorts, hut clusters etc.
Organisation of craft meals, local folk cultural meets, flower shows, Himalayan Car Rally etc. at a fixed time in the year preferably in March, April and May by the resorts themselves would attract visitors from all over the country.

Conversion of depressions, marshy land etc. into shallow waters for attracting migratory birds and construction of small resorts and catering facilities around these sites will attract local parties, wedding, school children and weekend tourists.

Source:sjda.org

 
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