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Siliguri: The export of first flush Darjeeling tea, which is the most sought after in Europe and fetches the highest price, has come to a grinding halt following an agitation by tea workers union demanding payment of pending wage and others dues.

Members of the Himalayan Plantation Workers’ Union, affiliated to the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), are camping at Rohini in Kurseong physically stopping the transportation of the first flush tea from the Hills.

Himalayan Plantation Workers’ Union president NK Kumai said that during the nearly four-month-long shutdown and agitation for Gorkhaland statehood in the Hills last year, the tea garden owners did not pay wages and bonus to the workers.

“Although the situation has become normal for over six months now, the owners are showing no signs of clearing the dues of the workers. This is why we have started this agitation and are stopping the export of the first flush tea,” Kumai said.

He added that as part of the agitation, they will on 4 May gherao the Lalkuthi, which happens to be the headquarters of the semi-autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.

There are 87-odd tea gardens in Darjeeling Hills and the first flush tea ~ plucked after the first rainfall of the season ~ accounts for 20 per cent of their revenue. Hence, the suspension of exports of first flush tea has huge financial implications.

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