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Grandpa dies, auction deferred
- The long wait

Siliguri, May 10: The start of sale at the Siliguri tea auction centre was deferred twice today to allow a member of the centre’s governing body to cremate his grandfather who died yesterday.

The decision has drawn criticism from a large number of buyers and sellers.

Yesterday, some members of the Siliguri Tea Auction Committee (STAC) decided to defer the time of today’s sale from the usual 9am to 2.30pm because of the death of the grandfather of Anand Tibrewal, who is a buyer and a governing body member.

“Keeping in mind that the unfortunate incident would cause inconvenience to Tibrewal and some other members, it was decided yesterday to defer the start of the sale,” said Anand Bansal, the vice-chairman of STAC. “We don’t find anything wrong in it.”

However, this morning the committee members realised that Tibrewal would not be able to complete the cremation and attend the sale at 2.30pm. So they deferred it again to 4pm.

An opposing group of STAC members, however, alleged that the repeated postponements were motivated by vested interests of one or more persons and this they felt is a gross violation of the auction norms. They also raised questions about the rationality of such a decision, especially when the auction is held only once a week.

“The sale was deferred for a reason that has no connection with auctioning,” said a senior member of the governing body, who owns a tea estate in the Terai. “We are surprised to see that officials of the Tea Board remained silent and did not intervene to revoke the decision. The deferral caused inconvenience to all stakeholders, be it seller, buyer or broker.”

Currently, there are 327 sellers, 425 buyers and 10 brokers registered with STAC, a source said. For today’s sale, the 19th this season, more than 1,000 lots of tea were on offer, the source added.

The disgruntled owner of the Terai estate described the problems that would result from the delay. “Because the sale started so late, a number of buyers from Gujarat, Maharastra and Calcutta, who usually leave after bidding early, had to stay back in Siliguri today. Sellers on the other hand are apprehensive that the delay will lead to a break in the payment chain, resulting in trouble at the estates where workers are often paid from this fund,” he said.

The governing body member added that the deferral for such a flimsy reason might tarnish the image of the auction committee, which is an autonomous body under the Tea Board.

Bansal, however, maintained that there was no reason for so much clamour when only the time, and not the date, of auction had been changed.

STAC chairman S.K. Saria, who is in Calcutta now, refused to comment on the issue, as did Amal Roychoudhury, the deputy director of the Tea Board posted in Siliguri

STAC secretary Aditya Antar Chatterjee said sale finally started at 4pm today and continued till 7.30pm. “Both the auction halls were full and most of the lots have been sold. The rest will be put up for bidding tomorrow,” he said.

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