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Jan Andolan Party to stage dharna for tea, cinchona land rights

Mahendra P Lama and Amar Lama meet supporters of Jan Andolan Party in Darjeeling
The Jan Andolan Party today held its first meeting in Darjeeling and decided to organise dharnas across the hills to demand land rights for tea garden and cinchona plantation workers.
Most of the 87 tea gardens in the hills are in Darjeeling and Kurseong subdivisions. The issue of land rights is likely to touch the majority of the people in the two subdivisions as tea garden workers, who comprise more than 70 percent of the population in the two subdivisions, do not have any right over the land where they have been living for generations.
Amar Lama, a member of the JAP's bureau, said today: "During the meeting, it was decided that dharnas would be organised to demand land rights as this is an important issue for our people living in tea gardens and cinchona plantations. Even though we plan to hold the dharnas soon, the date and venues will be announced later."
During the meeting, the JAP, launched by Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri in January, formed an ad hoc committee of the Darjeeling subdivision. Salim Tamang has been appointed as the convener of the subdivisional committee, while Pranay Rana has been made the convener of the party's subdivisional youth wing.
"Various GTA constituency-level committees have already been created. Trade union units have also been formed at Liza Hill, Rangmook, Cedar and Ging tea gardens," said Lama.
The bureau member said the party had decided not to impose decision from the top. "We are empowering respective committees to take their own decision. For example, the subdivisional committee will not interfere in the formation of constituency committees," said Lama.
The various committees have also been asked to start membership drive across the hills. "We are also launching a signature campaign on granting land rights. We want to collect at least 1 lakh signatures in the campaign," said Lama.
Simultaneously, JAP leaders have started visiting different places in the hills to hear the grievances of the public. "We have started the drive in Kalimpong subdivision and are launching the same in Darjeeling and Kurseong subdivisions soon," said Lama.
Mahendra P. Lama, the chairman of the bureau, when asked about the coming elections, said: "Our party will be contesting the elections."
The JAP is also looking at opening an office in Darjeeling town. "We have recently opened a contact office at Ghoom and are looking at opening a party office in the town soon," Amar Lama said.(TT)

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