Simulbari garden suspends work citing threat to management

Report by: 
Prashant Acharya
SILIGURI
2 Feb 2017

Simulbari Tea Estate in the outskirts of Siliguri downed its shutters on January 31 following a notice by the management, which has affected hundreds of workers. According to the suspension of work notice, a group comprising garden workers and outsiders were trying to grab a piece of land adjacent to the tea garden with the help of the local land mafia.
The notice read, "The management notes with extreme dismay that a group of workers and outsiders along with land mafias are bent upon dislocation (sic) the discipline, peace, tranquility and work schedule of the estate with their constant ill conceived course of action to grab a fallow area of leasehold land of garden where the management proposes to undertake extension of tea cultivation for which approval of the collector of Darjeeling has been sanctioned."
The garden management said about 180 acres of land have been grabbed by the land mafia. It also alleged the group has threatened to physically assault the garden management staff. Amid such an atmosphere, the management decided to suspend work in the garden, states the notice.
But the workers have denied the allegations. There are 1,700 workers in the garden of whom 700 are permanent and the remaining casual workers. The workers owe allegiance to the trade unions of the Gorkha Jammukti Morcha and the Gorkha National Liberation Front.
Tshering Dahal, the Terai leader of the GJM, said some workers have been using a piece of land for cultivation since the past several years and 108 of them have been listed as farmers since the days of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. To condemn the management's decision to suspend work, three female and nine male workers have started a relay hunger strike, she informed.