Trinamul leaders in Darjeeling have lined up three back-to-back public meetings and demonstrations to highlight how the demonetisation has affected the tea and tourism sectors, eyeing the civic and rural polls to be held this year in the hills.
The move, they said, has been planned to simultaneously launch protests over the arrests of MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Paul by the CBI as well as raise questions over the performance of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and the four civic bodies where the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has been in power for seven years.
The elections to the GTA are also scheduled later this year.
"The tea and tourism sectors form the economic backbone of the hills. Both these sectors have been badly hit by demonetisation. While tea workers who had to wait for fortnights to get wages, those working in the grassroots in the tourism sector such as cab drivers, porters, guides, waiters and owners of small homestays were equally affected because of the Centre's decision of scrapping of currency notes," Binny Sharma, the convener of Darjeeling district (hill) Trinamul, said.
The party, he said, has lined up meetings in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong from January 9-11.
"We will elaborate how the Centre is playing politics by using agencies such as the CBI and arresting our party MPs. Simultaneously, we will explain with examples of common people who are associated with the tea and tourism sectors at the meetings on how they have to struggle for even a square meal," Sharma said.
"The local MP, who is a minister of state at the Centre, remained silent and did not intervene to help these distressed people," Sharma added.
In the hills, there are 87 tea estates that employ around 70,000-odd workers. All had to face a cash crunch because of wage delays.
Similarly, around 30 per cent of the 9-lakh-odd hill population, directly or indirectly associated with tourism, saw flow of tourists declining in winter.(TT)