Work Stoppage at Darjeeling Tea Estate

Last week Darjeeling’s Jungpana Tea Estate, announced a “suspension of work,” citing threats by the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union (DTDPLU).

Owner of the estate, Shantanu Kejriwal told the Times of India, “Until and unless the prevailing threats are gone, our garden will remain closed.”

The difficulties with Jungpana began after the estate eliminated 15 positions to bring its land-labor ratio to recommended levels. The estate then made a move to make a new hire, but the DTDPLU had their own candidate for the position that they wished to be put into place. Kejriwal reported to the Times of India and the Telegraph that the union is pushing for more control over how vacancies are filled and on the candidates selected. Estate leaders claim that threats were issued by local union leaders and believe that the union is going to far in decisions that should rest with management. When Jungpana and DTDPLU could not even agree on a location for further negotiations, the work stoppage was announced by the tea estate. An unsuccessful tripartite meeting was held on Sunday, Aug. 3, with DTA officers representing management. The State Labour Department called for another tripartite meeting on Monday, but Jungpana management chose not to participate. No wages, salaries or rations are being distributed.

jungpanaJungpana Tea Estate was founded in 1899 and the Kejriwal family has run the operation since 1965. The tea estate produces 36,000 kg of tea annually. These teas received top marks at auction and in global markets. (A Jungpana Darjeeling sourced by Florapharm-USA won an award for top Darjeeling at this year’s North American Tea Championship.) This 77 acre plantation has nearly 260 farm workers and 41 staff members. Kejriwal estimates a loss of 15,000 kg of tea due to the work stoppage, as the monsoon flush or third flush could be affected significantly. The halt of production comes at an important time for the Jungpana estate as they have just announced new plans to raise brand awareness domestically. There will be Jungpana tea counters at shopping centers in high-profile locations like Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi and Jungpana tea will be sold under its own label in tea bag and loose tea form throughout the country.

On August 8 the state government announced that they intend to forcibly take and distribute rations on the estate if Jungpana does not do so immediately.

SOURCE: The Hindu
Image credit: Jungpana Tea Estate