The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tea tourism gets help from Tatas

Damdim, Nov. 17: The Tata group is known for providing quality hospitality through its Taj hotel chain. Now, the company is all set to do the same at its tea gardens in north Bengal.

The promises of the state government of promoting tea tourism in the region are yet to bear fruit. But already, in the first corporate boost to the concept, Tata Tea Limited has come up with a three-bedroom bungalow for visitors at their Damdim tea estate, located about 45 km from Siliguri.

The choice is excellent. The estate is approached through a long meandering road, intersected by sinuous rills cutting across the green carpet of tea bushes. It leads the visitor to the erstwhile deputy general manager’s bungalow, a luxurious enclave in a lush green backdrop, the silence of which is interrupted only by the barbet’s call or the water of the Chel lapping on the pebbled bed.

Aimed at high-end tourists, a day at the bungalow will cost Rs 4,000 for two persons, including food.

The first group of tourists have already arrived, though Tata Tea has elaborate plans for a gala launch of the project through two programmes, to be held in Calcutta and here, in mid December.

“The bungalow was lying unused,” Dipankar Borah, vice-president of north India plantation operations of Tata Tea, told The Telegraph during a recent visit. “So we thought why not make use of it, especially when even the state government is encouraging such initiatives.”

Tata owns four gardens in the Dooars and though Borah and his colleagues are tight-lipped about their plans, the next venture will reportedly start at its Rungamuttee tea garden, 10 km from here on the other side of NH 31.

“It all depends on the response we get from this venture,” was all that Anju Madeka, general manager, finance, Tata Tea Limited, said.

Visitors here will get a real taste of the Dooars, complete with a tea trail tracing the leaf from the garden to the factory, picnic by the Chel river, folk performance by the Santhali workers, golf at the nearby Eastern Dooars Club and cock-fighting at a Sunday haat.

“Since the place falls on the elephant corridor, we often have the pachyderms as visitors,” Anup Mehra, the senior manager of the garden, said. “Leopards, too, sneak in at times, but out here the co-existence of the two worlds is peaceful, which the tourists will definitely enjoy.”

“The place is home to some rare birds as well and it can be tagged with the Lava, Loleygaon, Gorumara bird circuit,” said Raj Basu, a consultant to the Tatas.

The project will also showcase the Tatas’ social corporate responsibility. “Our workers are among the happiest and the initiative calls for their participation,” Madeka said. Among other things, the workers will produce handicrafts to be sold to tourists.

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