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Closed gardens face takeover
- Minister announces September date as parties clamour for action

Siliguri, Sept. 10: Five of the 13 closed tea gardens in the Dooars area of north Bengal will be taken over by the Centre by invoking 16 (E) of the Tea Act in the current month.

Union minister of state for commerce and industry Jairam Ramesh told this to The Telegraph from Bangalore today. The gardens that are closed for the last few years would be taken over by his department, he added. He, however, refrained from naming the gardens.

The move follows the lack of response from a section of the closed tea garden owners at the September 5 meeting with Tea Board officials. They had failed to furnish any specific proposal for reopening their units.

“Though I have not yet received the status report of all the 13 closed tea gardens, the present state of affairs indicates that we would have to acquire at least five closed estates in Bengal,” Ramesh said.

Sources said the owners of the other eight gardens had placed some proposals at the meeting, expressing willingness to reopen their respective estates.

The Union minister will visit Calcutta on September 15 to meet Bengal commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen and finance minister Asim Dasgupta. “The modalities for the acquisition will be discussed at the meeting,” he said.

“On the same day, we will meet the owners and the bankers concerned in Calcutta to hear them finally before spelling out the decision,” Ramesh said. “The committee formed in this regard would start the proceedings once the meeting is over.”

Ramesh reasserted that this would be his third and final meeting with the closed tea garden owners and bankers. “This time, we are determined go ahead with the acquisition. There would be no further deadlines unless developments like submission of specific proposals are noticed,” he said.

Tea board officials, who had one-to-one interactions with the owners and bankers of all these 13 gardens on September 5, informed they are busy in preparing the status report.

“We have sent some feedback to the Union commerce ministry and are preparing the status report of each closed tea garden now. The minister would be here on September 15 to decide on the final plans,” G. Boriah, the director (tea development) of Tea Board of India, said over phone from Calcutta.

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