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Agartala, Sept. 11: A parliamentary committee on commerce said instead of suspending Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Act (MGNREGA) programme, which has led to labour exodus from the tea garden areas, the department of commerce should, in consultation with the rural development ministry, identify work that may be done in tea plantations under the rural job scheme.
The committee said this would ensure that the tea workers are able to avail of benefits of the job scheme without migrating.
The department of commerce has informed the parliamentary committee that it had taken up the matter with the ministry of rural development to get the committee’s recommendations examined and send the action-taken report, including action taken and proposed to be taken, to the department. The committee’s report was placed in the ongoing session of Parliament.
“After getting the action-taken report from the ministry, the department of commerce would be able to furnish the action-taken note to the committee,” an official of the department of commerce said.
The problem has become acute in the tea gardens of Tripura which are exporting tea to countries like Afghanistan, Russia, Germany, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. Disclosing this, the manager of Manu Valley tea garden in North Tripura, J.C. Das, said sowing and harvesting work had been affected by lack of availability of labour force.
“They go for MGNREGA work where they have to work only for two hours but get full wages; the rest of the day they spend in seeking pleasure,” Das said. He pointed out that the Dipankar Chatterjee Group based in Calcutta owns not only Manu Valley but six other highly productive gardens in North Tripura, Dhalai and newly created Unakoti districts of Tripura.
“Our share in the total production of tea in Tripura is close to 40 per cent but we are now affected by labour shortage caused by MGNREGA; if labourers earn easy money without much effort, why should they work hard on gardens?” Das asked.
He said both orthodox and CTC tea produced in his gardens are exported to Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Germany.
Das said in the last financial year, tea worth Rs 2.30 crore had been exported to Iran. He added that the Chatterjee Group, that owns seven gardens in Tripura, had purchased 30 machines made in Japan for leaf-cutting but their quality is not up to the mark. “Manual cutting machines are much better because machines follow a uniform pattern,” Das said.
Apart from this, the cooperative tea garden of Ludhua in South Tripura’s Sabroom subdivision is also exporting green tea to countries like Germany, France and Japan.
The regional office of Tea Board of India was inaugurated today in Agartala by the deputy chairman of Tea Board, Neelam Meena.