• TMC tea trade union to start 14-day camps in North Bengal ahead of Lok Sabha polls
    Telegraph | 20 November 2023
  • The Trinamul tea trade union has drawn up a new plan to reach out to the tea population of north Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

    From November 23, the Trinamul Cha Bagan Sramik Union, the trade union of Mamata Banerjee’s party in the brew belt, will conduct camps in tea gardens to assist tea workers and their families in getting various benefits and resolving certain problems. Such camps, the leaders said, will continue till December 7.

    “At the camps, our teams will listen to the problems of tea garden residents. They will take note of road conditions, drinking water supply, healthcare facilities and other basic amenities,” said Ganga Prasad Sharma, the chairman of Alipurduar district Trinamul.

    “Simultaneously, they will see if people are facing problems in getting Aadhaar cards, EPIC, the health insurance card of the state, provident fund and if all beneficiaries are availing the benefits of the social welfare schemes of the state such as Lakshmir Bhandar. Our workers will also try to resolve their problems by guiding them to authorities concerned,” he added.

    Results of three Lok Sabha seats, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Darjeeling, are decided by residents of tea gardens. In the 2019 general elections, the BJP had won all these seats.

    Over the past couple of years, Trinamul has recast its focus on the tea belt. After Lok Sabha polls, Trinamul fared poorly here in the 2021 Assembly polls too, winning only one seat. Most of the other seats went to the BJP.

    Thereafter, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Trinamul national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee announced a slew of measures for the tea population such as free housing, land rights, identity cards, health centres, ambulances and crèches. Also, the state took the initiative to regularly revise the daily wage of tea workers which stands at Rs 250 now.

    “The initiatives helped Trinamul and the party performed well at the rural polls. Also, in the hills, Anit Thapa’s Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha, which is its ally, emerged winner in the GTA and rural polls. Trinamul is keen to keep its focus on the tea population as the Lok Sabha polls are nearing. It wants to wrest seats from the BJP, and hence this plan,” said a political observer.

    After the camps, the trade union and the party will launch a movement on issues such as provident fund and Aadhaar card generation that are related to the central government.

    “Issues that can be addressed at the level of the state government or the administration will be taken up here itself with authorities concerned,” said a party leader.

    BJP leaders said it was the administration's onus to see if those residing in the tea gardens got all due government welfare benefits.

    “Why will Trinamul leaders have to check this? It seems that they know that the Duare Sarkar camps (of the Trinamul-led state government) were not effective and they are thus resorting to damage control. Such strategies will not work. The tea workers and their families are with us (the BJP),” said BJP MLA Manoj Tigga, the district BJP president of Alipurduar.

    During the birth anniversary celebrations of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda on November 15, Trinamul and the BJP in the brew belt were also involved in a race of political one-upmanship through their respective events.
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