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Trade body salutes Dewan, entrepreneurship

- Award in honour of India’s first commercial tea planter, Prabhat Kumar Bezboruah to be first recipient

Jorhat, May 29: The North Eastern Small Scale Industries Association (NESSIA) has decided to pay tribute to India’s first commercial tea planter and martyr, Maniram Dewan, by instituting an award in his name.

The Maniram Dewan Udyog Ratna Award will be given annually to an entrepreneur who excels in his ventures and inspires other entrepreneurs.

Noted tea planter Prabhat Kumar Bezboruah, a former chairman of the Assam Tea Planters’ Association and current vice-chairman of the Tea Research Association, will receive the award in its inaugural year.

Dewan, who gave stiff competition to British planters, was later hanged on charges of plotting against the British regime during the 1857 uprising.

NESSIA secretary Niren Sharma told this correspondent that each year the award would be given to an entrepreneur who had been a role model for others. The winner will receive a citation and a trophy.

“We decided to name the award after Maniram Dewan to honour the first commercial tea planter from Assam and the country,” Sharma said.

He said Bezboruah was chosen as the first recipient of the award for his immense contribution to the tea industry, especially his efforts in reviving several sick gardens.

Bezboruah will receive the award during the fourth triennial general meeting of NESSIA here this Sunday.

Aroon Chandra Barooah, Dewan’s great-grandson and the working president of the Maniram Dewan Memorial Trust told The Telegraph he was “very happy” after he was informed of NESSIA’s decision to institute the award.

“Our family and trust members are very happy. NESSIA is doing a great job and its initiative will contribute in getting Dewan his due recognition.” Barooah said.

He said neither the state government nor the Centre had responded to the trust’s plea to declare Dewan the “Father of Assam Tea” four years ago.

Barooah said the Tea Board had initially responded positively to the proposal of setting up a memorial for Dewan at Cinnamara tea garden (one of the two estates set up by Dewan in Jorhat) but there was no response after the trust sent them a project estimate of Rs 35 lakh.

Last month, the trust submitted another memorandum to Dispur urging it to declare April 27, Dewan’s birth anniversary, as Entrepreneurship Day, he said.

According to historical records, Dewan, whose real name was Maniram Dutta, had set up the Cinnamara garden in 1845 after resigning from his post of dewan (chief executive) with the British-instituted Assam Company, the first tea firm in Assam.

He was arrested in Calcutta when he went there to hand the British a memorandum from the Ahom king, Purandhar Singha. He was 51 when he was hanged in public, along with his aide Piyali Baruah, on February 26, 1858 on the banks of the Tocklai stream here.