Jhapa’s tea plantation farmers face the brunt of lockdownMechinagar municipality has asked the tea estate administration to provide food supplies to the workers; the tea estate itself hasn’t said anything about it yet.
On Tuesday noon, Krishna Darji, a tea plantation worker at the Mechinagar-based estate of Tokla Tea Factory, was sitting at the front porch of his home, lost in thought.
Darji has a family of four and lives in a temporary residence provided by the factory.
When the Post approached him, he jolted out from his stream of thought, as if awakened from a dream.
While on normal days, Krishna would work day-long, these days, since the lockdown, he is free.
He says he is relieved that he doesn’t have to listen to the frequent complaints of his boss, but since the work is off, his family is struggling to make ends meet.
“The lockdown began just about the time I was to receive my salary,” he said. For every 12 days of work, he would receive Rs4,300. “Now we don’t have the money or food.”
He hasn’t braved to ask for a loan from his neighbours because “everyone is facing the same problem as me,” he said.
“We don’t have rice, cooking oil, or salt,” Krishna's neighbour Sita Darji, who is in her seventies, said.
Krishna’s other neighbour, Prem Bahadur Tamang, says his family too is struggling. “My wife works at the plantation and we are running out of money to buy essentials,” he said.
According to Renuka Phuyal, who is a tea plantation worker and a member of the local tole development committee, the administration chief of the tea estate, Loknath Dangal, had called a meeting on Tuesday, but he didn’t say anything about paying the due salary to the workers.
According to Phuyal, the local unit representatives came to visit them two days ago and asked them if anyone had returned from abroad. “They didn’t ask us how we are sustaining,” she said.
While the Mechinagar Municipality had ordered the tea estate administration to provide food supplies to the workers to last the lockdown, the tea estate itself hasn’t said anything about it yet.
Mayor Bimal Acharya said, “We have requested the tea estates to provide essential food, and the municipality will soon announce a relief package as well.”
It is with this hope that families like Sita Darji’s are living for now. “If the lockdown continues and we don’t get any support,” Darji said, “we may or may not die from coronavirus but we will die from hunger.”