The pathetic and continued deaths of closed and abandoned tea gardens workers in the Dooars and Darjeeling regions will be raised for the first time at the United Nations (UN) through the International Labour Organisation (ILO), says the RSP's Minister of State, PWD, Manohar Tirkey.
Tirkey, who is also the secretary of 'Dooars Cha Bagan Workers' Union, told HT that the party's labour wing, United Trade Union Congress (UTUC) has decided to highlight the plight of nearly 20,000 workers of 19 tea gardens at the international forum for mobilising international opinion. "We are confident that global support and sympathy would help putting an end to the inhuman sufferings of the workers and their families," he stated.
The UTUC would also take the matter to the President of India very soon, so that he can intervene in his own way as did Bengal Governor, Gopal Krishna Gandhi by visiting two closed gardens in March and alerting the State government on immediate relief and alternative employment.
Claiming that about 2,500 deaths have occurred since 2000, due to starvation, malnutrition and abject poverty, Tirkey said the plight of workers and their families, numbering nearly one lakh has, become a national shame. It is a slur on the Left Front government of Bengal as well, he charged.
Asked if his party though being a major partner in the government was ethically right in knocking the doors of the UN and ILO, Tirkey insisted, "Our first and basic commitment is to defend and advance the interests of workers and peasants. We can no more keep mum even as jobless workers and their families continue dying," Tirkey claimed.
Endorsing Tirkey's demand, UTUC state unit general secretary, Ashok Ghosh contended that the State government has "remained cynically indifferent" about the hapless workers. The government is more eager on touting its pro-industry image than on rushing relief to dying workers, he alleged.
"I'm deeply hurt that my letter to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on February 4, giving a graphic picture of harrowing conditions of affected workers, has till date remained unanswered," he lamented.
Reminded that the State administration has strongly refuted starvation death figures, Ghosh thundered, "Mere jugglery of words like 'death due to malnutrition and chronic ailments, not of starvation' cannot wish away and hide the grim reality of continued march of deaths in tea gardens."