Darjeeling, Oct 4 : Life in entire Darjeeling hills and Terai came to a grinding halt on Friday with shut down everything in support of 20 per cent bonus for thousands of tea workers after seven trade unions have called for a 12-hour “closure” to put pressure on the tea gardens owners to concede demand for 2018-19.
Thousands of holiday makers have been stranded either sides of the hills and in the plains of Siliguri as the transport services went off the roads in solidarity of the poor tea workers, who are largely on daily wage labourers of over 80 tea estates in the hills and Terai.
While markets have been closed, vehicular traffic was off the roads forcing people to remain indoors from dawn to dusk. The hills have not witnessed such a protest since the 104-day shutdown in September 2017.
“We are appealing to all shopkeepers not to open their shops from 6am to 6pm on Friday. We also appeal to all transporters to refrain from plying their vehicles,” Suraj Pathak, CPI(M) leader said. The shut down was called after several rounds of talks, including in Kolkata, failed. The tea workers, men and women, also held demonstrations for the past few weeks and today put up human barricades in front all the tea gardens ensuring shut down of work.
Six rounds of bonus meetings, even with the state government officials and the unions and management — have failed on the disputed issues of quantum of bonus.
The tea planters have so far offered a bonus of 15 percent of a worker’s annual earnings. The unions, which had earlier asked for 20 per cent but later scaled it down to 19 per cent, have now gone back to their old demand.(UNI)