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Morcha basks in garden glory

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 18, 2009

Siliguri, Aug. 17(The Telegraph): The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has scored over its rivals in the Dooars as its negotiations with the Ambootia Group led to the reopening of the closed Samsing Tea Estate today.

The garden, which was owned by Tea Professionals’ Group with 2,317 workers on its payroll, was shut since September 19, 2003.

“A few months ago, we had met the chief minister who had assured us that three closed tea estates would reopen. But when he failed to keep the promise, we intervened,” said Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the media and publicity secretary of the Morcha, today.

This was followed by negotiations with the Ambootia Group, which owns tea estates in Darjeeling, and finally, the new owners reopened the garden today with minimal administrative intervention. It is the third closed garden in the Dooars that reopened in the past two months, the other two being Raipur and Chinchula.

The Morcha, which has not had a strong base in the Dooars unlike the hills, has won the confidence of Samsing workers in the past few months.

Political observers have hailed the hill party’s move. “The Morcha leaders can now tell people that they are genuinely concerned about Dooars’s development,” one of them said. “Though different political parties and organisations like the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad had pressured the state government to take initiatives for socio-economic development of the tribals in the region, none of them has succeeded in reopening a garden so far.”

Morcha leaders are upbeat about the development. They said the “Samsing success” would boost their confidence in the Dooars. “Definitely, it is an example of our sincere efforts,” Chhetri said. “We expect the jobless workers and their families of other closed estates to take a cue from this success.”

At the central committee meeting of the Morcha in Darjeeling today, the leaders decided to revitalise the organisation in the Dooars. “It is important that we focus on the region and bring in more active people to augment our support base,” Chhetri said.

Representatives of other political parties have, however, reacted cautiously to the Samsing reopening.

While the CPM refused comment, Congress leaders said they, too, had contributions in reopening Raipur and Chinchula. The Parishad attributed the “Samsing success” to the Morcha’s high concentration of supporters in the garden. “It is not possible in other tea estates of the Dooars,” said John Barla, the president of the Dooars-Terai Coordination Committee of the Parishad.

The final agreement between the management and workers of Samsing is yet to be signed, said Vandana Yadav, the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri. “After several rounds of bipartite negotiations, the garden reopened today on the basis of a tripartite meeting held on July 31. Once the formalities are complete, we will hand over the documents to the management and formally declare the garden open.”


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