Janmukti Parcha-Patta Sangrash Committee formed

Suraj Subba, general secretary  Janmukti Parcha-Patta Sangrash Committe
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today formed a 115-member committee to push forward the demand for land rights to tea garden and cinchona plantation "inhabitants" and the large size of the panel suggests that the hill party is gearing up to make land rights a major issue post-elections results.
The Janmukti Parcha-Patta Sangrash Committee was constituted today with a 13-member "policy making committee", which includes senior Morcha leaders like Roshan Giri, Binay Tamang and D.K. Pradhan.
Apart from the policy making committee, the Sangrash Committee has two units, one for tea gardens and the other for cinchona plantations. The tea garden unit is headed by P.T. Sherpa and consists of 60 members. The cinchona unit has 42 members with Gopal Ruchal, an elected GTA Sabha member of the Morcha, as the head.
Suraj Subba, the general secretary of the sangrash committee (tea unit), said: "The issue of land rights is of much importance for the hill people. We would, however, like to clarify that our demand is for granting land rights to all inhabitants of the tea garden and cinchona plantations. These people are not landless. They have land in their possession and all we are demanding is proper documents for their land."
Around 70 per cent of nearly 8.75 lakh hill people live in tea gardens and cinchona plantations.
Tea gardens' land is leased out by the state government to individuals or companies and the lease has to be renewed every 30 years. The state is the owner of the tea gardens' land. However, the workers and their families who have been residing in tea plantations for generations since the 1850s do not have land rights.
The cinchona plantations are under the directorate of cinchona and medicinal plantation, which is a state undertaking. Like in tea gardens, the workers of cinchona plantations have no land rights.
Ruchal said the policy making committee had started work in earnest. "We will start corresponding once the government is put in place after the elections results are declared. In the meantime, we will immediately start mobilising support at the grassroots level on the land rights issue," he said.
According to Subba, the intent of forming a jumbo committee is to ensure that every nook and corner of the hills is covered. "This is a big fight for which we have started our preparations. The Sangrash Committee has been formed for the GTA area and in the days to come, we will mobilise our supporters in the plains also," said Subba.
Like in the hills, there are tea plantations in the Dooars and Terai where the dwellers have no land rights.
Observers believe the Morcha plans to take up the land rights issue in a major way to neutralise the influence of Harka Bahadur Chhetri's Jana Andolan Party.
Apart from the upgrade of Kalimpong subdivision to a district, the JAP has also demanded land rights for the inhabitants of tea garden and cinchona plantation.
Subba, however, denied that their demand had anything to do with the JAP. "We have been raising this issue for long."
The Morcha has to face elections to municipalities this year and the GTA Sabha next year.(TT

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