March 9-10, 2012, Jalpaigudi
First stop of the Yatra on March 10 was Jalpaiguri where centre for development Human Initiative had organised a dialogue. The Secretary of the organisation Mr Jaideep informed that since the establishment of the organisation in 1995, the organisation has been working in six districts that are known as the Terai region of west Bengal. He said that the problems of the Tea garden laborers in this region are worrisome. Ghuppa tribes from the adjoining areas of Bhutan are settled in the area who are deprived of their land rights even today. He shared that very limited work has been done for development of the education, health and other basic services for these tea garden labourers. Despite more than 100 year, the tea garden laboureres are unsure about their local identity. According to him, the organisation is working with women farmers and has formed west Bengal Tarai Mahila Association (Samti) which is in constant dialogue with the government on issues of women rights. Mr. Subrato Majumdar informed that Bacxa Region of tarai area is predominantly tribal. However, no serious efforts have been made by the administration to implement the FRA. He said that there about 5000 Nepali & Rabha Tribal families are landless. He said that there are 14 tea gardens whose lease term has expired and where local labourer are fighting for their land and homestead land rights.Mostly it is Uaoran and Santhal teagarden labourer, who are denied their land rights. With the closure of tea gardens, these labourers are migrating to the neighbouring states. The tea garden laboureres are being exploited in regards to payment of wages too. They are given Rs 60-67/day while in Darjeeling area, the daily wage rate is Rs 90. The tea Garden labourers are raising collective voice for their land rights and are raising their voice for seeking Rs 120 as wages. He shared that tribals who have come from Jharkhand and other neighbouring states are not recognized as tribal in Bengal. As a result, civil and land rights have not been implemented properly. He shared that in this region, small farmers have taken the initiative to established tea garden and the government needs to give them more protection. In addition, labourer cooperatives should be formed in those tea garden whose lease has expired which will provide them sustainable livelihood option. The second stop of the yatra in the district was Rangamali village, where a meeting was organised by Uttarbang Terai Mahila Samiti. The members shared that there is an acute problem of flood and drinking water in this village which is located on the Banks of Tista river. Up until now, about 100 acres of agriculture land has been destroyed by flood and about 20 families have lost their land. Government has not taken any initiative to compensate and rehabilitated them. They said that the women group has setup a water filtration unit from the point of view of self employment. 22 members of the group contributed Rs. 2 lac and borrowed Rs 50 thousand from bank for this unit two years back. Today, the women group is self dependent.