by Saurav Sarkar
Ahead of the 2024 national parliamentary elections, the government of West Bengal said in February 2023 that it would distribute about 584 acres of land to tea estate workers. The workers will be given rights to the land in allotments ranging from about 0.05 to about 0.08 acres, reported EastMojo.
Reporter Rupam Deb said, though, that the issue is more complicated. “[S]mall victories aside, the tea workers are likely to continue their struggle for years in their quest to get land rights,” he said.
The issue of tea estate workers’ land rights, like much else in northern West Bengal, is wrapped up in an intricate mesh of party and ethnolinguistic politics. Caught in the middle are the region’s tea laborers who are legally entitled to numerous benefits from their employers like housing, medical care, and schools for their children, but often receive little or none of these. The government has not stepped in to date to remedy the situation in a meaningful way.
In the north, West Bengal narrows to the so-called “chicken neck” that connects Northeast India to the rest of the country. The dominant culture of West Bengal past the 12-mile-wide corridor differs in language and race from the mostly Bengali south. This contributed to the emergence of a movement for a separate state in the north, to be called “Gorkhaland” after the Nepali-speaking residents of the region.
Author Bio: Saurav Sarkar is a freelance writer and editor who covers political activism and labor movements. They live in Long Island, New York, and have also lived in New York City, New Delhi, London, and Washington, D.C. Follow them on Twitter @sauravthewriter and at sauravsarkar.com.
Credit Line: from the Globetrotter News Service