Jalpaiguri: Workers of tea gardens in Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal are battling acute poverty and unemployment since the tea gardens shut down 10 years ago. The workers are now seeking permission to kill themselves as the extreme situation has even driven many to sell off their women to the human trafficking trade.
Jharna Bagdi is one of 15 people who've written to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, seeking permission to kill themselves at the Dheklapara tea garden in Jalpaiguri, which has been shut for ten years now. Unemployment, poverty and acute malnourishment has taken a toll on these people. Some people have lost their eyesight and some the power to walk. Every morning men go to pick rocks at the nearby river Kalua to earn Rs 40 per day, often battling injuries. "If the government doesn't give us employment and solve the river issue we will soon fast unto death", said Sinha Orao, a tea garden worker.
Even workers, working at tea gardens that aren't shut are often exploited by owners and their labour entitlements are brazenly flouted. The workers of Kathalagudi villages of Uttar Dinajpur are living a life of quiet desperation. There is no electricity, no water, rampant alocholism, and their homes are often pounded by elephants.
"We are angry, but there is no one here to complain to, no secretary, no one. If we go to the office, the owners abuse us, what do we do," asked Sukhram Munda, a tea garden worker.
But the biggest problems affecting thousands of families here at the tea gardens is women and children's trafficking. Acute poverty and unemployment have forced several people to fall prey to touts, often operating as placement agents.
"She was raped by her co-worker and came back pregnant. We couldn't do anything for her", said a woman whose daughter-in-law was allegedly sexually assaulted by her co-worker in Delhi, who later got pregnant. But hunger and desperation drove her back to Delhi to give her children a better life.