Siliguri, Oct. 25: The electronic bidding system at Siliguri Tea Auction Centre has come to a standstill since earlier this month as the brokers have been barred by a sub-committee of the auction committee from participating in the e-auction for not paying their dues.
The governing body of the Tea Auction Committee has reconvened a meeting on Saturday with all parties concerned where it plans to persuade the brokers to pay up so that the e-auction can be resumed. A similar meeting, called last Saturday, was boycotted by the brokers.
The Siliguri Tea Traders' Association also wrote to the Tea Auction Committee today, demanding that the e-bidding process be resumed immediately. The association said according to the rules set by the governing body, all parties participating in the e-auction ' buyers, brokers and sellers ' would equally bear the expenses incurred during setting up of the e-bidding centre. The brokers, however, have refused to comply.
'While the entire expense of setting up the e-auction system was borne by the Tea Board, the cost of the infrastructure ' around Rs 9 lakh ' was decided to be equally shared by all of us. The brokers, however, are not cooperating, jeopardising the entire system that was aimed at phasing out manual bidding,' said Rajiv Lochan, the association secretary.
Partha Dey, one of the nine brokers here, said they have not been participating since the Sales Advisory Committee, a sub-committee of the Tea Auction Committee, had asked them to stay away from e-auction because of reported non-payment of dues. 'We are abiding by the decision. As for the non-payment, I have nothing to say, the auction committee seems to be in a better position to talk about it,' Dey said.
'On Saturday, we will try to find out why the brokers are not paying. We will have to see that better sense prevails,' said Ravi Agarwal, the chairman of the auction committee. According to him, it has to be made clear that the buyers, brokers and sellers are all equal stakeholders of the electronic bidding system.
Agarwal said the matter was being referred to the Tea Board. 'The board has told us to go by the decision of the governing body and follow the precedents set earlier,' he said. 'Earlier, we had always shared the total cost that had cropped up and we are surprised at the present impasse.'
Some of the traders said if the brokers refused to cooperate, the money already paid by the buyers and sellers should be returned. 'We have paid our share of the cost of setting up the e-auction office. There is no reason why the brokers should not. If the governing body fails to convince them, it should return us our share or the arrangement would not be equitable,' a buyer said.
The impasse has seen the past two e-auctions cancelled this month. Around five to ten percent of the total tea produced is sold through e-bidding at present.