Darjeeling (West Bengal): Three tea gardens in the Darjeeling hills reopened on Monday, signalling a gradual return to normalcy which has eluded the hills for the past three months due to an indefinite strike by the GJM over the Gorkhaland statehood issue.
"On Monday, three tea gardens reopened. We are hopeful that more tea gardens will reopen in the days to come," a senior police official said.
The development came two days after expelled GJM leader Binay Tamang held a meeting with several tea garden officials and owners and assured them that no untoward incident will take place if the gardens reopened.
A large number of shops also opened during the day, the 96th day of the strike in Darjeeling where the situation remained tense but incident-free despite threats and intimidation by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).
For the tenth day in a row, police along with the administration appealed to the locals over public address systems to open shops and restore normalcy in the hills.
Peace rallies were taken out by residents in Kurseong, Darjeeling and Mirik, while GJM supporters took out rallies in support of a separate Gorkhaland and the ongoing shutdown in sections of Darjeeling, Sonada and Kalimpong.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had urged the Gorkhaland protesters in Darjeeling to withdraw their strike and restore normalcy.
Banerjee said on Monday that the administration would take action if tea gardens are not reopened and the workers are not paid their pending bonus for 2016-17 before the Durga Puja.
A tripartite meeting on the two issues will be held at Siliguri on 21 September for a final decision on the issue, she said after holding a meeting at the secretariat.
"I am hopeful that they will sit together and work out a solution regarding these. If the reopening of the tea gardens and the pending bonus does not happen we will have to take some alternative action," Banerjee told reporters.
Expelled GJM leaders Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa, Chief Secretary Malay De and minister Arup Biswas at the secretariat participated in the meeting.
On 21 September, the labour commissioner, representatives of tea associations, unions and tea garden workers and garden owners would be present in the meeting, she said.
Earlier on Monday, De held a meeting with associations of the tea gardens and tea garden owners and he asked them to work out paying the pending bonus to the tea garden workers.
During Monday's meeting with Tamang, Banerjee said she also inquired about the current situation in the Hill areas.
"I want restoration of peace in the Hills, I want the common people of the Hills to live happily. I also want the well-being of the students," she said.
The chief minister also said that she has spoken to the Education Minister Partha Chatterjee and asked him to help students from the Hill to get admission to educational institutions both online and offline without facing any problem.
On resumption of internet services in Darjeeling area, Banerjee said that the administration would assess the situation before taking a final call in the matter.
"Once the situation normalises there (in Darjeeling) we will resume the internet services. Situation has improved a lot and people have started joining work. We will conduct an assessment of the situation before taking a final decision regarding this," she added.
Internet services remain suspended in the hills since 18 June.
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Updated Date: Sep 18, 2017 19:53:51 IST