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Strikes affect tea gardens

Jorhat, Aug. 22: The tea industry in Assam has incurred losses as gardens across the state, especially in Upper Assam, remained closed during the 12-hour strike yesterday called by a few organisations, including the Assam Tea Tribes Students Association (ATTSA), in protest against police excesses in Golaghat district.

The development could have an impact on the quality of Assam tea this year.

The chairman of the North-East Tea Association, Bidyananda Barkakoty, told The Telegraph today that the general strike was total in all the gardens in Assam and no factory could process tea yesterday.

Protesters also damaged a few factories in Moran in Dibrugarh district, Tinsukia and Golaghat districts.

“Several gardens, which had already plucked tea leaves and which were ready to be processed, could not do so as the factories were closed. All these gardens incurred huge losses and the quality of tea will deteriorate as well if not processed within a certain time after being plucked,” he said.

Barkatoty said it was a new trend in Assam that tea gardens were starting to feel the pinch of strikes called by various organisations in the state.

“It has been a year since tea gardens are being closed down during strikes. Earlier, these never used to feel the impact of strikes,” he said.

He said the association would take up the matter with the state government.

“We also appeal to all organisations in Assam to keep tea gardens out of the purview of strikes,” he said, adding that vehicles carrying green leaves should be allowed to ply like other essential commodities.

He said Assam, to the outside world, is synonymous with tea and the state tea industry employs nearly five lakh permanent workers and another five lakh seasonal workers. Another 10 lakh people are dependent on Assam tea industry, be it services or employment.

“As such, the government, student organisations and civil society should ensure that the tea industry is not affected by strikes,” he said.

A tea garden owner in Jorhat said August was the prime production season. “Tea making is a continuous process and if work gets disrupted for a single day the losses are huge,” he said.

He said his garden has incurred losses, as he has to dispose of a huge quantity of green leaves, which were plucked on Wednesday and were lying in the factory to be processed.

“If these leaves were processed today, the quality of tea would deteriorate and my garden would never compromise on quality, although I would incur losses,” he said.

Many gardens, however, had to compromise on quality.

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