Darjeeling: The Darjeeling hills witnessed a shutdown on Friday, the first since the 104-day strike in 2017, over higher bonus payout for tea
garden workers. The peaceful shutdown lasted for 12 hours from 6am and GJM leader Binay Tamang threatened a fast-unto-death agitation if the demand was not met.
Workers of all the 87 tea gardens of Darjeeling observed the 12-hour strike ahead of the festive season. Shops and markets remained closed with people preferring to staying indoors.
The tea trade unions took out processions in different parts of the hills in support of their demand for higher bonus payout. GJM leader Binay Tamang Friday threatened to go on a fast-unto-death agitation from October 6 if the demand was not met.
"I appeal to the owners of all the tea gardens to be more compassionate about the cause of the tea garden workers," he told reporters here.
Seven trade unions belonging to Himalayan Plantation Workers Union (HPWU) and Darjeeling, Terai, Dooars Plantation Labour Union (DTDPLU) are demanding higher bonus payout of 20 per cent against 12 per cent which has been offered by the management.
The GJM faction led by Bimal Gurung, who is presently in hiding, mocked Tamang's call and alleged that he is not serious about the issue. "We support 20 per cent bonus for tea garden workers. Binay Tamang's hunger strike is just a ploy to garner the support of the public but he will never succeed as people are against his moves," Roshan Giri, a leader of the Bimal Gurung faction said.
Darjeeling Indian Tea Association secretary Mohan Chettri said the unions had been demanding a bonus of 20 per cent."However, we have offered 12 per cent." The issue is likely to be settled at a meeting between the unions and the managements of tea estates on October 17, he said.
However, the tea garden workers of Terai and Dooars areas of north Bengal have been offered a bonus payout of 18.5 per cent and has been accepted by them, the sources said.
The protracted strike in 2017, which is billed as among the longest, was held to press for a separate Gorkhaland state in the Darjeeling Hills.