Other States

Tamang on hunger strike

GJM leader Binay Tamang.

GJM leader Binay Tamang.  

GJM leader is demanding 20% bonus for tea workers

Over the past 72 hours, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Binay Tamang has been on hunger strike demanding 20% bonus for the tea garden workers of the Darjeeling hills.

Since the start of the festive season, politics in the Darjeeling hills has been centred around bonus for the tea garden workers who earn ₹176 a day. On October 4, several trade unions working with tea workers organised a 12-hour strike after the talks between tea garden workers and the managements failed.

The demands of about 50,000 workers working in 87 tea gardens in the hills were taken up by Mr. Tamang, who on October 6 sat on an indefinite hunger strike in their support.

“His health has deteriorated, but he remains firm on the demand that the workers have a right to 20% bonus,” Anit Thapa, chairperson of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and a close aide of Mr. Tamang, told The Hindu.

Both Mr. Tamang and Mr. Thapa are close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The GJM faction led by these two leaders contested the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls with the support of the Trinamool Congress.

On whether the State government is helping in the cause of Mr. Tamang, Mr. Thapa said, “The government is cooperating. But the decision on the bonus has to be taken at a tripartite meeting.”

Meeting on Oct. 11

He added that the meeting scheduled on October 17 will be advanced. By the evening, it was announced that the meeting will be held on October 11.

Saman Pathak, leader of the Centre for Indian Trade Unions, the labour arm of the CPI(M), said the demand of tea garden workers of Darjeeling hills is justified.

“We support the issue on which Mr Tamang is on hunger strike. But it is a political decision of the GJM leader to sit on a hunger strike. He did not consult any trade unions fighting for the rights of tea workers on this issue,” Mr. Pathak said.

Mr. Tamang’s decision to sit on an indefinite strike is also seen as an attempt to revive his support base in the hills, particularly after the people in the region voted overwhelmingly for the BJP candidate, who is a supporter of the other GJM faction led by Bimal Gurung.

Meanwhile, the issue has taken a political turn with Darjeeling MP Raju Bista issuing a press release earlier this week targeting the TMC government and Mr. Tamang.

The State government could easily include tea gardens under the Minimum Wages Act, but they have not done so, Mr. Bista said. He added that he has raised the issue in Parliament because he “believes they have been deprived and they deserve better working conditions, wages and living standards”.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 5:47:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/tamang-on-hunger-strike/article29630565.ece

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