Demonetisation has affected livelihood of nearly 2,500 workers of a tea garden in Terai region of north Bengal after the management left the garden citing non-availability of cash. The senior officers of Tirrihannah Tea Estate are reportedly sent a general notice to the Indian Tea Association and the Darjeeling administration mentioning the wages of workers were delayed due to demonetisation effects anounced by the Government of India. They stated in the notice that the banks could not arrange funds in time and left the garden around Thursday night that suspended operations from Friday.
The garden employs 1,200 permanent and 1,300 casual workers. They do not accept the Trrihannah management’s move and feared that it would be followed by other gardens as well causing risk to livelihood of over four lakh workers. The Chai Kaman Mazdoor Union, affiliated to CITU, alleged that it was using the cash crisis as an “excuse to shut down the garden”, reported The Indian Express. “There was no agitation and workers did not prevent the dispatch of tea (produced in the gardens). The management has used the cash crisis as an excuse to shut down the garden,” reported IE quoting Gautam Ghosh, general secretary of the union.
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The Terai and the Dooars have 276 gardens, and the Darjeeling hills another 87. More than 4.25 lakh workers are employed in these gardens. Ghosh further said he fears that many other gardens would follow suit.
Taking note of teh situation, the joint forum of unions are scheduled to hold demonstrations from next week with two demands including asking tea garden managements to continue paying wages in cash and seeking banking infrastructure to be set up in tea gardens. On December 12, workers are scheduled to organise meetings at the entrance of each garden to discuss upon the ongoing situation.
Officials of the tea company, headquartered on Kiran Shankar Roy Road in Kolkata, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.