| Brew of hope |
Jorhat, July 1: The state unit of the BJP will approach the Centre to ensure that the state-government-owned Assam Tea Corporation Ltd (ATCL) is taken over by Andrew Yule, a government of India enterprise.
Newly elected BJP MP from Jorhat constituency Kamakhya Prasad Tasa told The Telegraph today that the state unit of the party would approach the ministry of commerce soon. “This is the only way to save the corporation,” he said.
Andrew Yule had offered to manage at least four gardens owned by the ATCL — Deepling, Cinnamara, Sycotta and Negheriting — but there was no response from the Assam government.
The offer was made a couple of years ago and repeated last year to former chief secretary of Assam, Naba Kumar Das.
Tasa said as both the companies are public sector undertakings, it would not be difficult for Andrew Yule to take over the management of the ATCL gardens. While the ATCL is a state PSU, Andrew Yule is a central PSU.
Tasa said this while reacting to a remark made by ATCL chairman Rameswar Dhanowar who had said on Saturday that the company is heading towards doom because of mismanagement and Dispur’s apathetic attitude.
Dhanowar, who is from the tea garden workers’ community, had said though he was the chairman of the company, he did not have the administrative and financial power to run and revive the corporation according to his plans. “ATCL officials and employees were not co-operating with me because of political pressure,” he had said.
Tasa said there was a lack of commitment on part of the state government.
“The condition of the ATCL gardens workers is pathetic. There is no regular pay, ration, drinking water and medical facilities. If things continue this way, the workers will die of starvation and disease,” he said.
Andrew Yule has 15 tea gardens in the country, producing nearly 10 million kg of premium quality tea. It has six tea gardens in Assam and the rest in Darjeeling and Dooars.
The estates in Assam are Rajgarh, Murphulani, Tingkong, Basmatia, Khowang and Hoolungooree.
Industry sources said Andrew Yule taking over the ATCL gardens was the best that could happen for the gardens, which were once considered “gold mines”, but had fallen on bad times.
“Andrew Yule gardens are among the best managed in Assam and we feel that the takeover would do a world of good to ATCL at this juncture,” a veteran tea planter and additional vice-chairman of the Tea Research Association, Prabhat Bezboruah, said.
Work in all the 15 gardens owned by the ATCL had come to a standstill in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The government had also offered to sell the gardens to private parties.
However, there was little response primarily because of the corporation’s liabilities, which stood at Rs 144 crore in 2002.
The company was, however, revived in 2005 with the government pumping in funds.
The revenue of the company has been increasing since its revival, with various initiatives taken by the government.
ATCL sources said the turnover of the company was Rs 14 crore in 2005, and had increased to Rs 36 crore in 2009 and reached Rs 48 crore in 2012. However, this will not be enough, going by the company’s liabilities.
The plantation area of all gardens of ATCL is 7,000 hectares and has over 15,000 workers.