KOLKATA: Around 75,000-80,000 workers of 87 premier tea gardens known the world over for producing the world-famous Darjeeling tea went on a hunger strike on Thursday protesting against the management refusing to give bonus ahead of the Durga puja festival, the biggest carnival of eastern India.
The protests are set to be intensified on Friday when the workers would take mass leave.
With all other sections of the society - merchant associations, vehicle owners associations, lawyers' association and civil society backing them, there is going to be a general strike or a bandh in the tea gardens and nearby areas, Tea Workers' Union Joint Forum Committee spokesman Ziaul Alam told IANS.
"It will for all practical purposes be a 12-hour strike from 6 am to 6 pm. But we are calling it mass leave as we had not served any notice on the management of the tea gardens," a leader of the workers said.
Calling the non-payment of bonus "a grave injustice", Alam said it was the first time that the workers have been denied the benefit during the Durga puja festival.
Expressing dismay over the "rigidity" of the tea garden owners, Alam said "the mass leave of work is in protest against their rigidity not to come to an amicable solution on bonus and the government's failure to resolve the issue".
The decision to go on a hunger strike and mass leave was taken following the breakdown of talks between the workers and the management.
The 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling employ 60,000 permanent and 15,000-20,000 casual and temporary workers.