Tea garden workers in Jalpaiguri district staged a protest on Tuesday, raising their voice against the delay in wage disbursement owing to the currency crunch following the centre's decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. The workers of all the tea gardens in Jalpaiguri district, numbering around 100, raised slogans against the prevailing situation. They said work in the gardens would stop if timely wages were not paid. The protest, however, did not affect the functioning of the gardens. According to CITU leader Zia-ul-Alam, workers receiving payment every fortnight were not getting their wages on time, leading to widespread resentment. According to Alam, the tea workers are facing a huge financial crisis and difficulty in purchasing rations from the market. Standing in long queues is not possible for tea garden employees because of their tight schedules.
Neither is travelling to banks for 30 km manageable for them.Besides the currency crunch, RBI's stricture against allowing money into the District Magistrate's account to channel payments to the tea gardens have exacerbated the crisis, he said. Scarcity of smaller denomination notes was also compounding their woes, he said. District INTTUC president Mithu Mahanta came down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation decision and the RBI stricture. Narrating the plight of the tea garden workers, he said many of the workers who reside in interior areas do not have bank accounts and some of the Jann Dhan account holders have to travel 35 km to reach the nearest bank. He said if the Centre keeps on changing their stand on the issue, it will add to the problems of the workers.