“A Scheme To Take Away Our Land” – Tea Garden Workers Oppose Govt. Scheme


  • March 10, 2024
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Groundxero| March 10, 2024

 

“The Government through its so called scheme for distributing homestead pattas among landless tea garden labourers In North Bengal is not giving us land – it is a scheme to take away our land.” This was the general agreement on 10th March 2024 in a Birpara-Madarihat block level meeting of the Joint Action Committee (Terai, Doars Hills).

 

Narrating the history of how the ancestors of the present tea garden workers had cleared dense forest and settled on those lands about 180 years ago, speakers in the meeting told that most tea garden workers have much more than 5 decimals of land in their possession. With the state government giving pattas or land rights only for 5 decimals of land, the government was actually taking away peoples’ land. The speakers also felt that it was an insult to the tea garden population to call them landless. “We are not landless; we have land in our possession. All we want is a proper record of our rights to this land.

 

The Joint Action Committee (Terai Doaars and Hills) or JAC –TDH, in short, is a non-party platform of civil society organisations, trade unions, NGOs and individuals working in the Tea Gardens in North Bengal and advocating their cause. It was formally launched about a month ago and at present it is critiquing the West Bengal Government’s programme for land distribution and housing aid to tea garden workers.

 

The meeting was attended by people from various Tea Gardens of Birpara Madarihat block, joined by representatives from Dhupguri, Banarhat, Metteli and Kalchini blocks.

 

The speakers demanded that if the government actually wants to give land, they should give them the rights to all the land that people possess.

 

The three demands of JAC-TDH were confirmed at the meeting,

 

  1. Immediate revocation/recall of the notification dated 01.08.2023 (Memo no.3076-LP/1A-04/23) giving pattas of 5 decimals only;

 

  1. Permanent right over all the land peacefully and continuously possessed by the tea garden workers from time immemorial.

 

 

  1. Immediately stop any attempt by the state machinery to privatise the government land in tea gardens in North Bengal so as to favour the private players, in the form of rendering the said land freehold or in any other manner whatsoever.

 

The meeting also reiterated that in case any tea garden workers has accepted the benefits given under the impugned schemes (memos dated 1.8.2023 and 3.1.2024) of 5 decimals patta or house building money under Chai Sundari Extension (as many workers have in Birpara Madarihat block), the same shall deem not to curtail his/her lawful claim for a better title.

 

In conclusion, the convention decided to start a mass signature campaign in all gardens on the above mentioned demands. It was also decided to start a campaign of having Gram Sansad meetings pass resolutions against the present land policy.

 

The meeting was addressed by Christian Kheria, Joint Convenor of JAC- TDH, Sanjiv Gurung, trade unionist from BTWU Bannarhat, Purbayan Chakraborty, Advocate Madhukar Thapa, Vice President Terai Doars Gorkha Samyukta Samity, and Babul Lama, President of Paschim Banga Cha Majoor Samity (PBCMS). In addition, Dominique Tigga, from Totapara Tea Garden, as well as Anuradha Talwar, member of JAC–TDH and PBCMS Central committee membe, also gave their suggestions. The meeting was conducted by Bikash Oraon, General Secretary of Uttar Banga Chai Shramik Sangathana.

 

 

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