People and place under

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Western travelers rarely ever tried to learn about, or from, the native people they encountered. Instead they recorded their observations upon commonly-held assumptions. These observations were presented as scientific truths that, in their turn, functioned to justify the very propriety of colonial domination. Thus colonialism continuously perpetuates itself.

Edward W. Said, Orientalism.

The effort of the British for making modern Darjeeling and the Dooars region had the physical support of the people residing in the region, but the dimension of the development activities encompassing the entire area being enormous, it was natural to have a dearth of manpower in proportion to the population of that periods. Hence, there was compulsion for the British to encourage able-bodied peoples' immigration in serving their purpose. Thus an influx of people was inevitable, but some writers with malafide intention, on the basis of the compulsion of the British for encouraging immigration in those days to carry the development works, have been writing that the present population of the region as a lineage and scion of immigrants. Some political parties under the influence of parochialism are also seen to be advocating and lending high credence to the writings that bear malafide intention. They seemed determined to ignore the historical information which states that "on the fact assimilated from the archaeological relics found in Badamtam about 14 K.M. far from Darjeeling a few years back, it has been apparent that there was a mixed civilisation in the undivided Sikkim which dates back to 12th century, where we find the traces of the Mangar, the Lepcha and the Limbo kings ruling this part of the world" (Bura Magar). The peoples' worship of the River Ganga dates back to remote antiquity which implies the settlement of the people on the either banks of the holy river since then. Similarly there are 'Devisthan' and 'Deorali' meaning community worship of deity and people's meeting place in almost all the villages of Darjeeling hills, but no one knows the dates and years of the establishment and consecration for worship of those Devisthans. However, annual prayer and entreaty at the altar of Devisthan has had been carrying on from generation to generation with earnest reverence. Thus, the offering of annual prayer at the altar of Devisthan could be regarded as a parody of the worshipping of the holy Ganga. So the existence of Devisthan and offering annual prayer clearly suggests that there were settlement of people, in those villages. In absence of settlement of people those Devisthans would not have come into existence. The mode of offering the prayer in some cases is done with sacrifice of domesticated animals. Such sacrificial act which is of the primitive nature is being followed till today. Hence, the animistic way of worship prevalent in primitive days being continued as of today suggests the settlement of people from the very beginning, but today some of those Devisthan have been modified and rebuilt by some of the devotees. The modification and rebuilding has led to the loss of originality and natural look. Besides the annual prayer at Devisthan, the people worship the different rivers flowing through Darjeeling Hills. The traditions of river worship also stand as a living testimonial of people's settlement around them from early days. It is further stated the place that the British had wanted to develop in the beginning had only hundred souls as stated by them, but renowned and lone historian amongst the Gorkhas of India, Dr. Kumar Pradhan, after making a thorough and impartial scanning of the fact, has stated that the habitation of hundred souls only as mentioned by the British was the population of the periphery of today's Mahakal Dara which they had wanted to possess for the purpose of a sanatorium for their ailing officials from the sweltering heat of Bengal plain area. A monastery prior to 1788 shifted at the Mahakal Dara also known as Observatory hill (during British days. "The monastery was destroyed by the Gorkhas in 1788 when they overran Darjeeling {then Sikkim} Jar Singh was the Gorkha commander" (Nicholas and Deki). The existence of the monastery obviously not built by for the animals of the jungle, suggests a good number of people inhabitating the place, offering prayer and performing socio-religious rites. On the Observatory Hill, S.W. Ladenla has written on 9th May 1912 - "When I was a school boy about 25 years ago, I remember having seen the remains of the wall of the old monastery on the spot". {Ibid} The remains of wall are to be understood as the ruins of the monastery destroyed in 1788. The literary giant and topmost thinker of Nepali world, Dr. Indra Bahadur Rai has also disputed the alleged fact of the inhabitation of 'hundred souls only' by his sharp argument and citing many verities. Similarly, the Leftist intellectual and thinker, R.B. Rai also writes that "In the midst of distortions and confusions regarding the aborigines, a cursory look on the prehistoric and historical events gives an indelible imprint of our primitiveness in Darjeeling." But the reason for distortion of fact and showing of the then Darjeeling with sparse population was the political and diplomatic exigency of the British so as to prove and convince the erstwhile Chogyal of Sikkim that the Lands taken from him were desolate, uninhabited forest and unsuitable for revenue collection. Hence, the alleged fact of uninhabited place as mentioned by the British was nothing except a political, diplomatic and administrative design for serving their best interest for occupying the place. But some local writers, artists and musicians being unaware of the political, administrative and diplomatic consequences and efficacies of the British postulation of sparse population in the region are also found to have made replications and repetitions in their works. Accordingly, the works of very few indigenous literate individuals also unknowingly lent credence to the immigration label of which the writer himself is one of the victims. Thus, Darjeeling region and its people have been made victims of their own ignorance. However, the majority of the people belonging to the saner, literate and informed circle are against such replication and repetition of the distorted facts and figures, but they are not as active and vocal as they are required to be. It is evident that in those days, there was dearth of system for census or any mechanism for counting the population and the place was an inaccessible hilly terrain. Even today, there are areas which are unreachable and during elections the polling personnels have to be despatched three days before the scheduled day of poll in some of the polling booths and in order to reach the polling booths, the polling parties are required to avail of the services of mules.

After sixty three years of the occupation of the region by the British, there was a report Terai Settlement 1898 that deals with the classification, occupation, settlement of the land road, Hat, Bazaar climate, ethnic composition etc. of "the plain portion of the district of Darjeeling locally known as the Darjeeling Terai" that is Siliguri and its periphery of today. The Terai Settlement Report 1898, as per the then available record contains caste wise population as follows: - Bhuimali and Mehter 1,079, Bhutia 422, Brahman 630, Damai 108, Gharto 229, Gurung 1,916, Kaibarta 329, Kami 630, Khambu 2,773, Khas 11,133, Lepcha 1,024, Limbo 524, Magar 1,347, Munda 255, Murmi 1,002, Newar 507, Oraon 4,632, Rajput 514, Sarki 151, Sunur 101, Yakha 54, Buna 1,270 and Shaik 6,301. These castes belonging to NEPALI and ADIVASI community had formed the population of the Terai at the end of the nineteenth century. But with the passage of time the dominant population has become minority and the community which was not in sight at the time of preparation of the Report of Terai Settlement in 1898 has become the majority and also the ruling community courtesy influx from the then East Pakistan and today's Bangladesh. The renowned journalist and author, Sanjoy Hazarika writes "security officials say that an average of 200000 persons slip annually into West Bengal State alone" and most of them do not return, rather stay by procuring ration cards and entering their names in the voter lists so as to become vote banks. As regards the process of converting them into the vote bank, Sri Bibhuti Bhusan Nandy, the Additional Secretary, Research and Analysis Wing, has written in a write-up "the party's hold on voters notably illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, the CPM in collusion with the politicised state administration, has forged and distributed eight million ration cards, thereby jeopardising the public distribution system, food security and protection from starvation. Frequent reports of starvation death from the remote reaches of rural Bengal do not smite the cynically indifferent state government into taking corrective action, bland ministerial denial being the only government response" (Empowering the marginalised, Marxist style, the Statesman dated 29th November, 2006). Similar cases of immigration have been taking place in North Eastern India which is explicitly stated by the former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and also former Union Minister Jagmohan. He has written "The policy of virtually enfranchising Bangladeshi infiltrators found its most brazen expression in 1979-80 when parliamentary elections were held on the basis of the 1979 electoral rolls which had been highly inflated by the inclusion of Bangladeshi infiltrators. No less an authority than the Chief Election Commissioner had publicly attributed the high increase of 35 percent in the population of Assam in the period, 1961-71, to the influx from the neighbouring country" (Carnage in Assam-1" dated 29th January 07 in the English daily, The Statesman). But they are immune of the stigma of immigrant because linguistically, culturally and ethnically they bear identical resemblance with the advanced and majority ruling class of the state where they have migrated. And from the day of setting their foot on the land by across the barbed wire, they avail of political protection and administrative security.

Today, the USA is the most powerful nation in the world but their history is replete with the fact that the borders of the nation were settlers and immigrants in the thirteen colonies of America generally from Europe and in particular from England. The immigrants in America after years of struggle and perseverance have succeeded in building a strong nation that calls the shots in trade, commerce, technology, military power and politics in the world and no one dares calling them immigrant. Similarly, in the content of Indian history, the original people of Tripura have been overwhelmed by immigrants who have become the rulers of the land, but they are not labelled immigrants and it is only the Nepali-speaking people of Darjeeling, Sikkim and North-East who are being stamped with the label of immigrants with malafide intention. The people in northern Srilanka are fighting for their own homeland and they are in receipt of moral, political and other help from different quarters, but most of them were there from India as workers in plantation industries since the inception of the industries. The people of Tamil Nadu are extending moral and material support to the Tamils of Srilanka in the capacity as co-brethren. On many occasions the issue of Tamils of Srilanka was raised in the assembly of Tamil Nadu, but in the case of eviction of Nepali speaking Indians from different states, it does not become an issue in any of the Legislatures of the Indian States. In the same manner, the eviction of more than one lakh Bhutanese from Bhutan failed to attract the attention of any legislature in India. West Bengal though having a border with Bhutan, the evicted Bhutanese nationals were denied of shelter in the state. The facial, cultural and linguistic similarity of the refugees with the Indian Gorkhas who are the dominant population of Darjeeling and Dooars region, has been the stumbling block for the Bhutanese refugees in getting shelter in West Bengal, but the refugees from Tibet are being provided adequate security and other means of social, educational, cultural and economical support. Thus it is seen that there is discrimination in the treatment of the refugees also. As the more than one lakh Bhutanese Refugees who were staying in different camps in Nepal for more than fifteen years formed an organisation National Front for Democracy in Bhutan. While, in Bhutan an exercise for establishing democracy was set in motion by the king for which the final phase of the General Mock Election was slated to take place on 28th May 2007. The refugees being desirous and anxious for taking part in the mock election decided to march to Bhutan via MECHI BRIDGE which separates India and Nepal. Accordingly they had informed the UNO, Government of India and other organisations and associations for help and support, but on the scheduled date, a large contingent of police and para-military forces formed a wall of obstruction to the Bhutanese Refugees on the Indian side of the Mechi Bridge. The bridge on the Nepal side was occupied by several thousands Refugees and on the Indian side of it by police and para-military forces. The Bhutanese Refugees were bent upon going to Bhutan to take part in the mock election and the forces in no case were ready to allow them to enter India on their way to Bhutan. The forces were thus deployed for the obstruction of the movement of the refugees to Bhutan via India. This measure was adopted to dissuade them from their move, talks and negotiations. Tear gas shells were discharged and lathis charged. Lastly, bullets were sprayed leading to the loss of lives of two refugees and injuries to several. The death, injury and arrest of the refugees created a tense and critical situation at the international border between India and Nepal. To diffuse the tension a meeting of the officials of the two countries was arranged. The representatives of the refugees and the leaders of eight political parties that formed the ruling coalition of the day in Nepal took place on 31st May, 2007. It was believed that in the meeting the refugees and the leaders of National Front for Democracy in Bhutan had been requested to defer their march to Bhutan for fifteen days. The print media had also carried reportage of the assurance given by the Indian Officials to the Bhutanese refugees for taking up the matter for safe passage to Bhutan with the Government of India for consideration and redressal. As a follow up action of that very meeting, a meeting of the officials of the Government of West Bengal was held in Darjeeling in the presence of Amit Kiran Deb, Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal on 7th June, 2007. After the meeting the Chief Secretary told the press that "the West Bengal government would not allow passage to the Bhutanese refugees striving to return to Bhutan from their camps in Nepal via India. Mr. Deb said this in Darjeeling, after holding a meeting on the recent intrusion bid by the Bhutanese refugees at Nepal border near Panitanki in Siliguri sub-division. The crucial meeting was convened at the DM’s office, Darjeeling this morning." (The Statesman, Siliguri, Friday, 8th June, 2007). There are refugees from Bangladesh, Tibet, Srilanka and Afganisthan numbering several lakhs who are staying in India, but it is only the refugees from Bhutan who are denied asylum/ shelter in India and are also being denied a passage to return to Bhutan. On their incessant endeavour to enter India on the way to Bhutan, two precious lives were lost. Several were injured, and some refugees were also arrested in an action taken by the police. Nobody bothered to challenge the unmindful action of the police on the refugees, for propriety of the police action, as per the provision of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Criminal Procedure code (CrPC) and other laws prevalent in India. The forces deployed at the Mechi Bridge seemed to have acted as if they were Bhutanese police owing allegiance to that country.

It is also a fact that many Indians without being called immigrants are at the helms of affairs in the different countries. As in India, the ancestral place of the renowned Marxist leader, late Jyoti Basu was from East Pakistan presently Bangladesh. He has made a record in the annals of their history of Chief-Ministership of Independent India by leading Left Front Government for more than two decades. Further the Indians settled in America could play vital political role during elections without a feeling of any apprehension of being called immigrant. Many Indians are at the command of political powers in some countries, but in spite of having such a glorious tract record and tradition of India, some of its people knowingly or unknowingly call Nepali-speaking people immigrants.

Thus, assigning of the immigrant tag to the Indian Gorkhas could be construed as an effort to undermine the contributions and sacrifices made by them in the Indian freedom struggle. The citizens of India under the leadership of Gandhiji strived for FREEDOM for the people, by the people, of the people. In the process many people became martyrs. In the galaxies of the Martyrs belonging to the freedom struggle, there were several Nepali speaking Indians also. Among them mention of a few would be enough. Durga Malla was executed on 25th August 1944 at the age of thirty one. The British had employed his wife as their ploy for dissuading him from taking the cause of freeing India, but he preferred death against the wishes of a young and pretty wife. He was followed by Captain Dalbahadur Thapa. He was executed on 3rd May 1945 in Delhi District Central Jail. Recently a life size statue of Sahid Durga Malla has been installed in the premises of India's highest LAW MAKING INSTITUTION, the PARLIAMENT in honour of his sacrifice made for the cause of mother India. Dal Bahadur Giri being inspired by Gandhiji had also spearheaded the freedom movement in Darjeeling Hills and he was popularly known as PAHARI GANDHI meaning GANDHI from Darjeeling Hills. He and Pratiman Lama, while taking part in the Non-Co-operation Movement called by Mahatma Gandhi, were arrested as fallout of the Chauri-Chura incident, 1922. The Pahari Gandhi also laid down his life at the altar of the freedom movement while fighting to retrieve the honour and glory of mother India. It is believed and also an accepted fact that the tune of martial song of I.N.A "SUBHA SUKHA CHAIN KI BARKHA BARSHAY BHARAT BHAGYA HAI JAGA. PUNJAB SINDHU GUJARAT MARATHA DRAVID UTKAL BANGA" (M.P.Rai) is found to have been replicated in the National Anthem. The setting of the very magical tune was the musical mastery of the hero of I.N.A Captain Ram Singh Thakuri. He was the recipient of the various awards and pensionary benefits given to the Freedom Fighters from the State and Central Governments of India. Thus, it is explicitly clear that India does belong to its Nepali speaking citizens too, as they too have not been not been mute spectators in the freedom struggle. Furthermore precisely "India is a multi-ethnic melting pot as its multi-ethnicity evolved naturally migration stretching over five thousand years forms Indian history". Hence the Nepali Speaking citizens too are bonafide members in the multi-ethnic society of India with a status that is neither below nor above among the Indian families.

It is true that the development of Darjeeling is found to have ushered in along with the entry and takeover of the place by the British. The British to their comfort and luxury had started construction of buildings, hotels, cottages, roads and bridges. These plannings and designings as contemplated by the British to make modern Darjeeling consumed a load of energy, blood and sweat from the forefathers of the present generation, as they had a discernible presence in the region. The physical strength, courage, elasticity and forbearance of hardship and immense fortitude of the then Nepali speaking people of the place, led within a short time led to a crop of buildings and cottages with unique masonary dexterity of architectural design and beauty with excellent sewerage systems. Besides those buildings, cottages, roads, culverts, bridges and tea gardens that are known as Orchards of Green Gold to this day were also the product and outcome of the joint endeavour of the local brown and white people, who had come from across the seven seas. If the local people had not provided their co-operation then, it would have taken several years by the Britishers for making modern Darjeeling with imported men and materials, but the place with simple people, who were not in contact with outside world became a fertile region for making Darjeeling a second home for the British in the way they had desired.

The Tea Gardens planted by the British and irrigated with the sweat and blood of the indigenous people still stands as the lone industry in Independent India of Darjeeling. Most of the tea bushes on inspite of attaining an age of more than hundred years are still producing tea with Muscatel Flavour and Exquisite Bouquet. Presently eighty-seven tea gardens, covering an area of seventeen thousand five hundred hectares are producing ten to twelve million kilograms of tea per annum. It is roughly estimated that fifteen to twenty-five percent of the total population of the tea garden areas are employed in the gardens and out of the total workforce; the percentage of women is sixty percent. They are engaged in supervision and maintaining of tea bushes and also producing the much-sought after tea of the world market. They get Rupees Forty Eight and Paisa Forty for eight hours work as per the industry wise agreement held in the month of July, 2005 in Kolkata between the Government of West Bengal, the owners of Tea Gardens and the representatives of workers, but as per the then available price index it was necessary for each worker to get at least Rupees Eighty Eight per day for maintaining and supporting three to four member of the family. At the same time, several decades’ junior tea gardens of Kerala, Tamilnadu and Sikkim were paying their workers Rs. 66.70, Rs. 74.62 and Rs. 85 respectively as daily wages. Thus, the workers of the Tea Gardens of Darjeeling that produce the Finest Tea in the World are always treated as an assortment of easy exploitation. There are Legislations and Enactment of Laws for the safeguard and protection of the interest and right of the workers, but the provision of the benefit and welfare measure contained in such statute book has been shelved by most of the tea gardens from the later part of the ninth decade of the twentieth century on the plea of not getting adequate price for Darjeeling Teas in the world market due to the disintegration of erstwhile USSR. While shelving the pro-workers provisions, the punitive clauses contained in the act has been strictly observed and followed by the management. As from 1990 to 2003 the management has been successful in squeezing the rate of payment of Bonus from 20 to 12 percent. There are many gardens that have not been depositing the Provident Fund of the workers, but the managements of those gardens have not been brought to book to this day. While considering the peculiarity of high cost of living in Darjeeling Hill Areas, there is an arrangement of providing Hill Compensatory Allowance to the employees working in the Government, Semi-Government and Quasi-Government Departments and Private Undertakings, but the employees of the Tea Gardens of Darjeeling are being deprived of the benefit of the hill compensatory allowance. Thus the need and requirement of the workers of the tea gardens of Darjeeling has become a subject of easy neglect.

The Tea Gardens of Darjeeling Hills are the only industry surviving for one and half century. The age of the most of the tea bushes are within the range of hundred to hundred fifty years. A very few gardens have extended the area of the garden by way of new plantation. As per report contained in Techno-Economic Survey of Darjeeling Tea Industry by National Council of Applied Economics and Research, New Delhi it is mentioned that there was arrangement of subsidy from Tea Board for uprooting the old bushes and carrying replantation, but no massive uprooting and replanting have taken within the length and breath of almost all gardens as of today. In order to get maximum yield from century old bushes the use of fertilizer and chemicals has been made a common practice. The practice is just like making a man bent with years participate in a running event by washing him with Acroids. Thus the mindset of the tea Industry Management is clearly unconcerned for the health of Tea bushes and workers but getting maximum crops for earning profit.It is because of the existing modus-operandi, an Enquiry Committee was constituted way back in 1960 by the West Bengal Government on Tea Gardens. The committee had stated that "the recent tendency of the new entrants in tea trade in trying to get a quick return on their investment at the cost of quality has proved to be a menace to the stability of this foreign exchange earning industry." Hence, it was obvious that Indians who were entering in tea trade as "New Entrants" in independent India, after the departure of the British planters were in hurry for making profit only without looking to other related aspect of the tea gardens, but in spite of such harsh comment from Darjeeling Inquiry Committee no correctional measures were taken. The two research scholars, Mashqura Fareedi and Mr. Pasang Dorjee Lepcha on their work entitled Area and Issue … Profile of Darjeeling and Sikkim contains a chapter captioned as Darjeeling Tea in which it is stated that "at times it has been admitted by the Tea Board that money given to planters were not used in the gardens rather were siphoned off to other speculative industries." Further they write “profit continues to be enjoyed by the people outside, whereas the people are treated as coolies and labourers. Looking at the larger picture, one sees that the tea industry has had a negative impact in every sphere of life in the hills. Transparency and accountability is lacking in gardens”. It is really true that there is no transparency in terms of development and management of gardens, its account and other fiscal measures. The activities of the different strata of employees are confined to manuring, nurturing of tea bushes, plucking the leaves, making of tea and its packaging. Thus, the people and their lineage working from generation to generation in making world's best tea from Darjeeling are never allowed and encouraged to have their participation in the affairs of the sale of tea produced by them, as the world's best and finest tea produced from Darjeeling Hills are taken to Kolkata and Guwahati that is fourteen hours journey by bus or train from the place of production, for selling through auction and other means. Hence, the knowledge, idea, conception and reality of the auction and business of Darjeeling Tea for the people of Darjeeling have been turned into a myth. Though it is a fact that more than hundred years ago Soureni and Fuaguri tea gardens were owned by local entrepreneurs but today the tillers of the soil of tea garden of Darjeeling are not able to hold three percent of the full-fledged managerial post in 87 registered tea gardens of Darjeeling hills. "The Alubari (Aloobari) Tea Garden had been established in 1856, as one of the first commercial tea gardens in Darjeeling, and is reputed to have been the location of Dr. Campbell's initial experiments in tea making with the camellia bush" was purchased by S.W. Ladenla and family of Darjeeling in 1921. But in the twenty first century some people coming from outside the region and joining in the posts below the managerial level have a dramatic rise in becoming owners of flourishing tea gardens on account of availing the promotional incentives in terms of post and finances, the ladder through which they successfully climbed has been made a mystery for the aspiring local entrepreneurs. Hence the local senior planters have no choice except spend the retired life in other pursuit, in spite of being expert in tea manufacture while making any demand for the welfare of the employees as per the statutory provision; the trade unions as representative of employees always have to encounter the argument of financial instability due to high cost of production and fetching of least prices in the tea market. But such squabbles of financial instability due to not getting of proportionate price in relation to the manufacture cost advocated by the management is nothing but a rhetoric, because as per the "Gorkhaland Agitation- The Issues: An Information Document" which is a booklet published by the West Bengal Government states on Darjeeling Tea "while tea production of 12 million kgs accounted for Rs 32 crores" as income to the government in the year 1986-87, but two years after the profit shown as above by the Government of West Bengal, the lone industry of Darjeeling is found to have followed the tract of loss and decline in a systematic manner. The hue and cry of high cost of production and fetching of low price by Darjeeling Teas has become a slogan just like that of political parties. There had occurred a sort of misappropriation of tea produced in Phuguri Tea Estate in the year 2004 for which a complaint is found to have been lodged by the management of the garden. It is mentioned in the complaint that the cloned tea selling "at the rate of Rupees fifteen hundred to two thousand five hundred and Assam type tea for three hundred rupees per kilogram respectively" (The complaint addressed to the Officer-in-charge, Mirik Police station dated 25th June, 2004 from the Management of Phuguri). Further few tea producers of the District are offering good price to the tea farmers of abandoned gardens of Pashok and Vah-Tukvar for the green tea leaves produced by them. The mutual understanding of people of these two abandoned gardens in managing and running the gardens have enabled them to earn their livelihood and meet requirements for sustenance and existence, but recently [in January 2006] these two gardens and also Puttong situated in the Terai have been purchased by private party. The Pashok Tea Garden, after eleven years of abandonment, has been purchased and opened from 1st December, 2006. Thus, the rhetoric of high cost of production and dwindling of the prices of Tea in the world market stands as half truth blown out of proportion, by the purchase of those gardens, but the workers of the gardens in Darjeeling Hills instead of questioning the rhetoric of the owners have been extending unconditional support to the management for running the gardens. As "there are examples where the workers are extending their support to the request and wishes of the management by surrendering all their statutory rights and agreeing to receive wage far less than the government prescribed rate. The factories of Singtam tea garden [20th August, 2003], Ambiok tea garden [11th October, 2003], Gielle Tea Garden [31st October, 2002] and Mundakoti tea garden [21st March, 2004] were completely reduced to ashes on the date and year mentioned within the brackets due to fire accident. The management came to express their inability for the construction of the factory on account of paucity of financial resources. On learning the attitude of the managements, the workers of the gardens offered their support by taking less wage and other benefits for enabling the owners to build new factories. Thus the factories of the world famous tea gardens were being constructed with the direct and indirect help and support of the workers, but the contribution made by the workers has not been responded with appreciation and acknowledgment." (K.B. Subba a senior trade unionist of Darjeeling). There is a tea garden called Ringtang below Sonada. The garden is being run in a manner for several years under which the garden cannot be regarded as a closed garden. The garden has been running with total disregard to the Plantation Labour Act and other Rules and Laws in force. The garden is being kept functional only for the plucking season of green leaves and after harvesting of the crops the garden again becomes non-functional. Thus it has become a seasonal garden and the workers doing the seasonal work are deprived of Provident Fund, Gratuity, Ration, Medical facilities, Minimum Wages, Bonus etc. as enjoyed by workers of other gardens. The garden has been running at the whim of its owners for more than a decade keeping aside the Rules, Acts, Statues meant for the tea gardens. The trade union belonging to the ruling party with brisk activities is seen for unionism only. Hence, the gardens are being kept alive by shedding the blood, sweat and tears of the workers. In this manner it is the workers who are found to have been making sacrifices for the survival of the Darjeeling tea whose taste and flavour are known only to the world and not the ones who are being sacrified. Thus the saving of the tea gardens and its survival has been regarded by them as their bounden duty, as the same have been inherited from their forefathers as heritage, and no such paradigm and standard are found elsewhere throughout the length and breadth of independent India. It is also the only industry in India left by the Britishers which has been surviving for more than one and a half century. Thus, the tea industry in Darjeeling has become more of a curse than scant blessing to the people who have not been able to either part with it or sail across to prosperity. In the computer age of twenty-first century they are barely crawling and waddling for themselves. The crawling workers of the Tea Gardens of Darjeeling came to witness an unprecedented event in the history of tea industry in India on 25th February, 2006. On that day a social worker and also a writer Baburam Dewan committed suicide in protest against the frequent lockout of Chongtong Tea Garden. The garden was purchased by an enterprising industrialist of Darjeeling district in the year 1983, and from the year of purchase to the date Baburam Dewan committed suicide; the garden was either closed or locked out for twenty times on one or other pretext. In each such closure the garden is found to have opened by negotiation between the management and the workers, but every time after snatching one or other right and facilities of the workers. The snatching led to the deprivation of ration, medical and hospital facilities, Gratuity, Provident Fund, denial of the wages fixed by Government and four percent Variable Dearness Allowances, but the management, being discontent with the plunderings of the legitimate rights of the workers, placed a proposal of making payment of only three days wages for six days work and that also at the rate of Rupees Thirty One and Ninety-Five Paisa per day. The proposal put forth by the owner caused a flutter in the tea garden and the workers refused to accept and approve the proposal. The management attempted the implementation of proposal by convening such meeting of the representatives of trade unions operating in the garden. But the workers verbally restrained the representatives from attending the meeting that was detrimental to their interest. Thus, being unable to coerce the proposal as as at other times, the owner resorted to the suspension of work in the garden from 13th Jan 2006. Then by operating the trade unions of the garden, they moved from pillar to post apprising and informing the modus operandi of the owner to the various levels, so as to get rid of the hardship of workers caused due to the closure of the garden, but no concrete solution could forthcome except a meagre relief from the district administration and execution of some development scheme by the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in a very partisan manner. In such a critical situation the social worker and writer Baburam Dewan committed suicide leaving a note in which it was stated seeing the plight and difficulties of the have-nots and for the redemption of the 6500 [Six thousand five hundred] people of Chongtong Tea Garden from exploitation at the hands of management, the suicide had been committed. Further, he had warned in the suicide note that the step must not be taken as a cowardly act but a vehement protest and after him four of his friends would follow his path, but the management, authorities and the government remained Dumb, Deaf and Blind on the sacrifice made by Baburam Dewan.

Suicide is common in India. Some people commit suicide because they are unable to clear their debts and some cannot bear the pain caused by sickness. Family disturbances, Legal complications, broken love-affairs, unable to face odd circumstances, fear of imputation and mental tension are also seen to be the causes of suicide. Even the suicide of Hitler was to save his skin from the punishment for the crimes he had committed against humanity, but the suicide of Baburam Dewan did not come within the parameter of such suicides as committed in the annals of the human history. A number of farmers in Andhra Pradesh are reported to have committed suicide on being unable to make repayment of loans. The owners of Poultry farms also committed suicide in West Bengal because of their inability to save the chickens from Bird-Flu during the corresponding period. In those cases, the governments seemed kind and gracious enough for taking measures not to allow the recurrence of such incidents, but the suicide of Baburam Dewan failed to draw the attention of the owner, the management and the authorities due to the reason that he belonged to the forlorn tea garden community of Darjeeling. Further on 26th April, 2007, Sukbir Rai, the supervisor of Orange Valley Tea Garden which is located near Chongtong Tea Garden, committed suicide. The supervisor Sukbir Rai was believed to have submitted a report to the management against six recalcitrant workers with a view to correctional and reformative measures, but the management, instead of taking steps as suggested, suspended the six workers of the garden on 14th April, 07. The harsh measure had become a subject of disagreement between him and the authority, and the disagreement gradually took a shape of mental torture and harassment on the supervisor. On learning the suicide committed by Sukbir Rai, the workers of the garden gheraoed the management alleging the authority of inflicting mental torture and harassment to their supervisor Sukbir Rai and demanded the arrest of the culprit. The "workers said Rai, a dafadar [supervisor] in the garden, was publicly humiliated on April 14. Nipen Sharma, the Assistant Manager of the garden, insulted him on that day for not doing his work well. Soon after, he was asked to work as a chowkidar and this was too much for him to bear, said Solomon Subba, a worker" {The Telegraph dated 27th April, 2007}. Interpreting the gherao by the workers as a torture and harassment of the management, the garden was locked out on 28th April, 07. Subsequently negotiation at the level of Assistant Labour Commissioner on 10th May, 07 led to the reopenings of the garden. The incident and occurrence of the suicide and lock out of Orange Valley Tea Garden was carried by the daily news papers of Nepali language only. The daily papers except one in other languages published from the district of Darjeeling did not consider the happenings worth reporting, but on the same day the death of six pigeons and approaching of monsoon and clearing of drains by Siliguri Municipal Corporation had four column news in the national dailies published from the region. The media is regarded as true allies and also the most powerful weapon of the people for fighting against oppression, suppression, exploitation as well as safeguarding the individual and collective rights of the people, but, when people fight for the same and the fight is ignored and skipped by the allies of the fighter then there occurs every possibility for looking the beloved allies with suspicion. These circumstances have led to build and form suspicion on the role of media at then national level. A massive rally was organised by the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxist on 14th January, 2006 in Siliguri giving a slogan for the formation of separate state of Gorkhaland coinciding with the Conference of All India Trade Union Congress. The rally had thrown the traffic of Siliguri Hill Cart Road out of gear for two hours. Similarly the Democratic Revolutionary Youth Front had organised a historic rally that jammed the traffic and put the office of the District Magistrate of Jalpaiguri out of function for several hours on 15th April, 2007 demanding the release of detainees kept in Jails without trials. Further on May Day, 2007 the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists took out the biggest procession in the history of Kalimpong town on the demand of separate state of Gorkhaland comprising Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars region, but those events and also many other had been ignored for by the print and electronic media. Hence Darjeeling is experiencing neglect not only from Government but also from the national and state level media, the strongest fourth state of Democracy.

There are gardens managed and run by government of West Bengal through a body called West Bengal Tea Development Corporation (WBTDC), but the state of affairs of those gardens under WBTDC is no better either as they too have shelved the pro-workers' statutory provisions of the Plantation Labour Act solely in the interest of the management. The denial of the statutory rights of the workers and the attitude of the management of WBTDC towards them has become a model for the management of the private tea gardens to justify their anti-workers activities. It has become extremely easy for the management in arguing their inability for the non-compliance of provisions of the Plantation Labour Act by citing the state of affairs prevalent in the gardens under WBTDC. Further there is provision of a post in the tea gardens designated as Welfare Officer and it is equivalent to the status of assistant manager. The duty and responsibility of the Welfare Officer is to look after the welfare of the workers of the gardens. Very few gardens have filled up the post, but the appointees are not in a position to look after the welfare of the workers because the emolument and facilities that they enjoy are also from the coffer of the respective gardens. Thus the liberal act for the welfare of the workers of gardens as envisaged in the act has become a mockery. The foreign buyers of Darjeeling Tea are reported to have been contributing some amount in addition to the cost of the tea exclusively for the welfare of the workers who prepare matchless flavored teas, but the workers so far have not tasted the fruit of the munificence of those generous foreign donors.

The people of Khashmal areas of Darjeeling Hills are growing and producing bio-organic tea under the guidance of different Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The farmers of such mini-gardens are selling the green leaves of tea to different gardens at prices varying from Rupees Thirty to Thirty-Five per kilogram. But in selling the crops, the farmers are required to avail a Certificate of Trade Mark (CTM) and in most cases the CTM has become a hurdle. However, many of them are taking all the measures and steps for regularization of tea plantation made by them as required under the provision of the land laws.

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