The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Invisible security at great tea party

Guwahati, Nov. 20: Delegates to the International Tea Convention could be surprised not to see too many gun-toting, uniformed personnel hovering around them.

Code-named Iceberg, the security module designed by Assam police for the 400-odd delegates, including 48 foreigners, is meant to provide maximum protection without making them feel claustrophobic. Only the tip of the security line-up — one-third, to be precise — will be in uniform. The rest of the layers will be “invisible”, a senior police officer said.

The foreigners who have confirmed their participation in the three-day summit, beginning Thursday, are from the UK, Uganda, China, Japan, Egypt, Russia, Germany, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Uganda.

Concern over security at such a high-profile tea event stems from the fact that the industry has long been the banned Ulfa’s favourite target for extortion and abductions. The state administration does not want to add to the feeling of insecurity by throwing a security blanket that is visible all over.

“Many people, particularly foreigners, do not like uniformed security personnel to be hovering around them. Most of the personnel deployed for their security will be in civvies. The idea is to insulate the delegates without them knowing that they are being constantly watched,” the police officer said.

The security module is in line with the government’s eagerness to project a positive image of Assam before the world, which perceives the state as a disturbed zone and unsuitable for business.

“Amassing security personnel will only perpetuate that image. The visitors should go back with the kind of image of Assam that the state government is trying desperately to project before investors. But this does not mean we will lower our guard and allow any outfit to strike,” the police officer said.

The big names on the list of delegates include Aditya Khaitan, the managing director of McLeod Russel and chairman of the Indian Tea Association, Nic Revett of Twining, Franz Thiele of Thiele & Freese, Tata Tea managing director T. Siganporia, Azam Monem of McLeod Russel, Tea Research Association chairman C.S. Bedi, Ramesh Menon of Spencer Retail, Rakesh Kaushik of Hindustan Lever, Hemant Shah of Girnar Food Beverages, William Gorman of the UK Tea Council, Mohin Saify of Tapal Tea, Amit Choudhuri of J. Thomas and P.K. Sen of Carrit Moran.

Union minister Kamal Nath will deliver the valedictory address.

The Union commerce ministry had invited Hollywood actress Julie Christie as a global ambassador for tea, but she declined to come because of other commitments.

Christie was born in Chabua near Dibrugarh, where her father was the manager of a tea estate.

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