Darjeeling youths sing about plight of tea gardens workers

Kolkata, Nov 14 (IANS) “In the tea gardens, the dreams that our grandparents sowed are stolen away by whom,” questioned a youth group from Darjeeling district in West Bengal, bringing to the fore the plight of workers in the running tea gardens of north Bengal through the Nepali song.

“Nabolda Naboldai (The silence flows)”, is the title song of the Nepali documentary film of the same name that was screened at the ‘Chaay Garam: Voices from Tea Gardens’ here on Monday.

It is based on the life of workers in Margaret’s Hope tea garden in Darjeeling owned by Goodricke.

“Some time ago, the management made a promotional documentary portraying the garden as an oasis. Local youths decided to expose the real situation through a counter documentary,” said Samik Chakraborty, documentary filmmaker with the activist cinema group ‘Canvas’.

“It is not just the closed tea gardens, even the condition of workers in the running tea gardens is bad,” claimed Chakraborty, activist with the Chai Bagan Sangram Samity.

Through their rendition of the song, the students studying in North Bengal University and Jadavpur University expressed solidarity with labourers at the “so-called well-run” tea gardens. The showcase was arranged by People’s Film Collective.

“The song was composed by a youth from the Margaret Hope garden. Through the song, the tea garden workers are saying they have not spoken up for many years and the problems have stayed on. We want people to pay attention to the plight of the working class,” Ambika Rai, one of the students, told IANS.

Shedding light on the issue, Ajit Ray, Professor in Operations Research at the University Of North Bengal, said the workers across all gardens in the region are not even getting the minimum wage.

“It is being said the cost of production is increasing and if wages are hiked, then it will further increase and this could affect the competition in export market. This is not the minimum wage. The amount they are paid is lower than that,” Ray told IANS.