Bitter brew: Survival is chief concern this election

Bitter brew: Survival is chief concern this election

An elderly worker of Dooteriah Tea Garden.

Sitting on a rickety plastic chair in front of a small temple in the Dooteriah Tea Garden here, Dipak Rai, a tea plantation worker, seemed rather confused about the elections.

He has good reasons to be, as the tea garden has been closed for the last two years, making it a challenge for workers to make ends meet.

However, the management of these tea estates are yet to officially declare their closure.

Asked whether elections make any difference to the plantation workers, Rai said after no political leaders visited the garden since elections were declared, they have invited TMC candidate Amar Singh Rai to visit the garden. 

“We have invited Rai to see the situation here and how we are suffering,” Dipak told DH.

Having received no wages in the last two years, about 400 workers are forced to do odd jobs, like working as daily wage labourers, for survival. But after the construction of the road is completed, they will lose that option as well.

Rai is just one among 2600 workers of three closed tea gardens — Dooteriah Tea Garden, Kallej Valley Tea Garden and Peshok Tea garden - who are staring at an uncertain future.

If the family members of the plantation workers are included, then the number of people depending on these gardens goes up to about 15,000.

They have no health or education facilities and now, no income. 

About a 100 yards away from the temple, Mai Gurung was busy cooking. When asked about the elections, she simply looked at us and went back to her job.

“Elections don’t mean much to her. She and other workers here just want to make both ends meet,” said a local Gorkha Janmukti Morcha worker.  

The situation isn’t much different at the Peshok tea garden, where the workers’ sole demand is that the garden be reopened and their daily wages restored.

“We don’t want much. Whether elections or not we only want to live with dignity and peace,” said Indraman Gurung, a tea plantation worker.

Asked about his plans to address the issue of the tea plantation workers, the TMC candidate Amar Singh Rai had no clear answer.