Siliguri, Aug 12 : Thousands of tea plantation workers in Darjeeling went on strike on Monday demanding higher wages. They have threatened to step up their protests, which could endanger the output of premium brews.
The Coordination Committee for Plantation Workers (CCPW) and the Defence Committee of Plantation Workers Rights (DCPWR) is leading the strike.
Workers said the shutdown would continue if their demands were not met.
"We will continue our strike if our demands are not fulfilled," said Bani Roy, a tea worker.
The trade union have threatened to launch an indefinite strike from August 18 if their meeting on thr wage revision of tea workers fail.
"350 tea estates in West Bengal that employs about three lakh workers observed shutdown demanding revision of wages. The shutdown was successful in the mountainous, Terai and the Dooars belt. Factories, tea gardens and everything else remained closed," said Alok Chakkraborty, the constituent member of CCPW.
The state has 183 established tea gardens belonging to British era, besides over 500 tea gardens planted in recent years. The tea industry in West Bengal forms the backbone of the state's economy. It contributes 21 per cent of the total production of tea in India.
Tea from the gardens in Darjeeling is famous world over for their finest blends. here are only 86 tea estates which produce Darjeeling tea on a total area of 19,000 hectares and the tea from Darjeeling makes up for three per cent of India's total production.
The Darjeeling tea industry at present employs over 52 thousand people on a permanent basis, while a further 15,000 persons are engaged during the plucking season which lasts from March to November.
Tea is also an important source of income through exports. according to official statistics available, Indian tea exports have registered an increase both by value as well as volumes during the first half of 2008.
The Indian tea industry is now on a rising curve after years of recession.