Siliguri, Jan. 20: Retailers joined the battle of wholesalers, downing shutters of tea outlets in response to the nationwide strike called by the brew merchants.
The traders are demanding the withdrawal of the Tea Marketing Control Order 2003, which says that all buyers have to be registered with the Tea Board.
“There has been no positive response to our demands from the government or the Tea Board. On January 12, the Tea Board had expressed its willingness to negotiate on certain points, but we were not ready for that. We will not accept anything short of a withdrawal of the order. Until that is done, we will boycott all our business activities,” said Srawan Choudhury, the secretary of Siliguri Tea Traders’ Association.
“We have been joined by 14 other tea trade associations from other parts of India,” he added.
The association took out a protest rally here and submitted a memorandum to the Siliguri subdivisional officer and the additional district magistrate.
The traders have so far boycotted Auctions II and III. The fourth auction is scheduled for Thursday. “Around 5 million kg of tea is lying unsold due to the boycott of auctions at the Siliguri tea auction centre,” said Col T.B. Subba, secretary of the Siliguri Tea Auction Committee. Fiftytwo auctions are held in a year. “If they boycott the sale no. 4 as well, the quantity of unsold tea will touch the seven million kg mark,” he added.
The tea traders, who have suspended sale and purchase of tea, are waiting for the outcome of the talks between the National Coordination Committee and the Union commerce ministry.