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Tea estate holds pruning contest

Jorhat, Jan. 28: It is a contest of a different kind.

The Heeleakha tea estate here, held a pruning competition among labourers yesterday in a bid to inspire the workers to indulge in quality pruning of the tea bush.

“Pruning is a crucial chapter in the tea manufacturing process. Poor quality pruning would not only hamper quantity production but also in producing quality tea. As such we have organised this pruning competition to inspire the labourers to get used to quality pruning of the tea bush,” Bijoy Singh, an official of the tea estate, situated along the Assam-Nagaland border, told The Telegraph today.

This is for the first time that such a competition was held among the tea labourers in Upper Assam, which is considered the tea hub of the country.

A scientist at the Tocklai experimental station, Bichitra Borthakur, said pruning of the tea bush, carried out in December-January, was one of the most important operations next to plucking, which directly determined the productivity of tea bushes.

“It helps to provide stimulus for vegetative growth, divert stored energy to production of growing shoots, correct past defects in bush architecture, maintain ideal frame height for economic plucking, improve bush hygiene, reduce the incidence of pests and diseases and regulate the crop,” he said.

The Tocklai scientist said it was very important for the labour force to learn the right technique to carry out pruning of the tea bush.

Singh said though most of the tea labourers of the estate were used to pruning, many were still to learn about the nitty-gritty of the process. “The competition will also make labourers learn the right technique of pruning,” he said.

There are at least five types of pruning, where the branches are cut using razor-sharp knives at a particular angle — light prune, height-reduction prune and medium prune, heavy prune, deep skiff and medium skiff.

The garden official said the labourers were divided into four groups with women comprising a separate group and prizes were distributed to the winners of all the three groups. “We have not only considered how many bushes a particular labourer has covered but also the quality of pruning,” he said.

An Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) official, Nagen Kurmi, who attended the prize distribution ceremony as chief guest, said the Sangha would request the industry to carry out such competitions among the labour force in all the gardens in Assam.

“We will also consider holding inter-garden pruning competitions among the labour force,” Kurmi said while speaking at the prize distribution ceremony. The ACMS is the apex body of tea garden labourers in Assam.