The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gogoi takes tea woes to Delhi

Guwahati, May 14: Alarmed by the erosion of its vote base in the tea belt, the ruling Congress today decided to give “more emphasis” to the revival of the sector.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi told a news conference here today that he would seek a special revival package from the Centre. “We will definitely take some measures to check the erosion,” he added.

The party pressed the panic button after PCC president and top tea tribe leader Paban Singh Ghatowar lost the Dibrugarh parliamentary seat, which it has been retaining since 1952. The constituency has over 30 per cent tea tribe voters.

The Congress also conceded defeat in the Mariani Assembly byelections. The Assembly constituency has more than 30 per cent tea voters.

The chief minister was hopeful that with his party set to assume power at the Centre, it would be easier for his government to convince Delhi to sponsor a special revival package.

He insisted that his government had also taken up the matter with the previous NDA government without any success. “Under the chairmanship of PWD minister Sarat Borkotoky, a committee was formed to device a strategy for the revival of the tea industry.”

The Congress’ failure to convince the gardens facing recession to give adequate Puja bonus to the tea labourers last year was described by party leaders as one of the prime reasons for the swing in tea votes against the Congress.

The party think tank believes that unless the financial health of the industry was revived immediately, the erosion in votes would continue.

Before leaving for New Delhi, a smiling Gogoi said apart from the tea issue, he would also urge the prospective Congress-led government to give a special thrust towards resolving unemployment and improving the economic situation in the state.

The government will also emphasise the need to change the funding pattern in the state. “I have been insisting that the matching share between the Centre and the state for centrally-sponsored schemes should be 90:10 instead of the current 75: 25,” Gogoi said.

He said he would continue to raise the issue of 100 per cent job reservation for the youths of the region in grade III and IV posts in all the central government undertakings based in the region.

Accusing the NDA government of depriving the state in allocation of central funds, the chief minister said he would urge the new government to “rectify the mistakes”.

Replying to a query, Gogoi said the new Congress government would give proportionate representation to the Northeast in the Union ministry.

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