Starvation in TEA Gardens
A strange situation has arisen in North Bengal—15 tea estates owned by one of the premier companies in tea, Duncans Industries Private Limited, are in a state of limbo. They are neither closed nor open in the usual sense of the terms, with frightening consequences for the workers on the estates. This situation has added one more chapter to the shameful history of hunger in the tea industry. A report on the situation there entitled "Ignoring Hunger : Report on the Situation in Duncans Tea Estates in North Bengal" is being released today [14-09-2015] for the public.
Earlier on 8th September 2015, the Special Commissioner of the Supreme Court on Right to Food after visiting the gardens wrote to the Chief Secretary, West Bengal Government, asking for immediate steps for relief to the workers. He wrote that "the illegal and undeclared stoppage of wage payments and ration payments in the Duncan gardens has resulted in enormous food distress and livelihood distress, as well as considerable hardship to the workers and their families." So far, there is no effective response by the West Bengal Government.
The report shows that closure (or semi-closure) of Duncans' estates in North Bengal is becoming a humanitarian crisis of vast proportions. Over 75,000 people have been affected. Two cases of deaths probably due to hunger were also found during the study. Immediate measures need to be taken by the State Government. There has been drastic decline in earnings and consequent severe deterioration in diets. If one adds to this the crisis in drinking water in the estates, along with the total collapse of medical care, it is almost a near disaster situation.
The State Government has played a negative role in this crisis by ignoring several important lapses by the Duncans management, such as non-renewal of leases to the garden land, non-payment of dues and rations to workers, not depositing Provident Fund money etc. It has in fact turned a blind eye to several illegal acts of the management.
With no realistic plan being put forward by the management to re-open the gardens, the State Government must step in with short term relief measures, which it is obliged to do under the Supreme Court orders on the Right to Food such as an immediate distribution of GR, followed by regular distribution of rations; opening of MGNREGA works and immediate clearing of all due wages under the MGNREGA; extension of medical facilities through mobile medical camps; ensuring safe drinking water supply for the workers etc.
The State Government must also take measures to ensure that the management immediately opens the gardens and runs them properly. In the absence of such initiative by the management, it must begin the search for new owners, after cancelling leases where necessary. It must also ensure that the dues of the workers are paid by the management so that workers do not have to suffer because of the callousness of the employer.
Right to Food and
Work Campaign, West Bengal
Bihar Shows the way
From time immemorial, the holy land of Bihar has enriched this subcontinent with great and novel ideas. It was the Great Buddha who spread his mission of love to all humanity from this holy land. Later on, Magadha became the centre of spread of large scale settled agriculture based on the wooden plough with iron tip.
During the colonial days, Bihar was one of the fields of great rebellion against the British Raj, the Santhal Rebellion, 1855, the great war of independence, 1857, and the Birsa revolt, 1901. Post independence, it was Bihar again which showed the way to rid the country of Congress rule. The great Jaiprakash movement had an all India impact and in 1977, the country for the first time elected a non-Congress government.
The Vidhan Sabha election 2015 in Bihar was crucial not only for Bihar but for the nation as a whole. The Modi-Shah Brigade came to power in 2014 making use of Muzzafarnagar riots(and some other factors). Their 18-month rule has been a total failure in terms of "Development" which they campaigned. Their only "success" is a strategic build up along with the US in the South-China sea in an "Encircle China" move.
In order to cover up this failure, the regime had gone all out to divide the country along religious and caste lines, to destroy whatever progress has been achieved in the fields of secularism, democracy and social justice. Bihar was their next laboratory. A victory for the saffron-party in Bihar would have meant a victoiy for obscurantism, divisiveness, suppression of Dalits, women and minorities. Actually, the future of the country was at stake.
And on the noon of 8th October 2015, Bihar sent the message to the country that it has again taken the lead role and showed the path to save the country from quagmire. But it is unfortunate that the Left parties refused to see the impending crisis on the country and stay with the main current of people's upsurge in Bihar.
Santosh Rana, Kolkata
The members of West Bengal Civic Police Association of Malda district including state president Sanjoy Poria assembled near Rathbari More, Malda Town to give deputation to the SP of Malda district. Prior to this they informed the SP, DM, and IC of English Bazar Police Station of the programme. The Malda police administration refused to reinstate the Civic Volunteers of Malda district. In spite of the fact that the GO No. 2573-PL/PB/3P-3I/12 dated28/07/15 of special secretary of West Bengal clearly mentioned that only the old list of Civic Volunteers have to be enrolled for their appointment as Civic Volunteers.
The dismissed Civic Volunteers of Malda wrote letters to the respective Police Stations, protesting the administration to give deputation to SP with prior intimation. After they assembled, without any reason the police brutally lathicharged causing severe injury to 75 civic volunteers and arrested more than 65 Civic Volunteers and confined them in Eglish Bazar Police Station. Many of them severely beaten up by the police and became seriously ill. They were taken to the Hospital.
The West Bengal Civic Police Association is a member of the 'Ossongothito Khetra Sramik Sangrami Mancha'. The mancha protests and condems the illegal arrest, brutal lathi charge, and harassment of civic volunteers by the police administration. The Association demands :
1. Immediate release of all the arrested Civic Volunteers.
2. Immediate reinstatement of dismissed Civic Volunteers following the GO no. 2573-PL/PB/3P-31/12 dated28/07/15 of special secretary of West Bengal and Hon'be Calcutta High Court Order.
3. Stop harassment and vicitimisation of Civic Volunteers.
4. Ensure gurrantee of constitutional right of 'Right to Association'.
Swapan Ganguly &
Somenath Ghosh, Convernors,
Ossongothito Khetra Shramik Sangrami Mancha
Probably for the first time in the History of India, the downtrodden have asserted in favour of the secular rubric of India so decisively and so united! Yes, contrary to all Punditry and all "educated" misconception, the rural India and the downtrodden India did not vote on their caste lines but declared an assertive hullabol against their so-called educated, urbanized "civil society" who in fact en masse voted for the divisive RSS/BJP. The morning trend of vote counting when the machines from the relatively urban areas were opened NDA was running high, some idiot mass media even already declared how right in estimation they were. The trend turned just the opposite as the machines from the rural areas started pouring in their results.
Yes, for the very first time, Muslims turned down those who solicited votes on religious lines [MIM, SP etc], the Dalits turned down their so-called Messiahs [LJP, HAM, BSP etc], the women turned down sham women candidates from BJP, and also for the very first time Suryapuria Muslims voted en-masse for the Left [ in the last election the same candidate hardly could muster 5000 votes, this time he managed to lead by a whopping 22,000 votes], the struggling Dalits from the flaming fields of Sahar [now Terari] voted for the Left and Darauli—the famous spot where Chandrasekhar was martyred sent a jailed revolutionary by another thumping differential of 13,000 votes. Yes, these "illiterate" peasants, these rustics showed the practical meaning of Secularism and the way to save it.
Who are conscious? Once again it is proved that urbanized education and social consciousness are orthogonal characteristics and political consciousness can only be achieved from the quotidian struggles on the streets. The juggernaut of Hindutva simply petered its way off the flaming fields of Bihar. Once again it is proved that social and political thoughts do not emerge from the swathes and avenues of urbanized colonies of India, but from the alleys and fields of Hindustan!
Chicanery of social engineering led by the urban upper caste leaning rightists has fallen flat on the rugged vales of Bihar. Bihar shows who the real custodians of Indian secularism and democracy are!
Revolutions are not always done with guns and spears, amidst rivers of bloodshed, amidst nation-wide threats of existence revolutions can also be ushered by the silent majority—time and again that was and is being proved by the Indian electorate. The results literally dismally ridiculed the corporate mass media, the know-it-all nincompoop Punditry—it took the way the class line guided—the proletariat way... Secularism is now a class question! Bihar wrote this on the wall!
Soumitra Bose, Kolkata
Vol. 48, No. 20, Nov 22 - 28, 2015