The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strike defers tea scheme
- 24-hour bandh blocks formal announcement

Siliguri, Jan. 7: The statewide strike called by Opposition parties tomorrow has left the formal declaration of Special Purpose Tea Fund in uncertainty.

With the Tea Board of India not sure when Jairam Ramesh, the Union minister of state for commerce and industry who was supposed to make the announcement, is likely to find time again, the plan to declare the scheme formally has been put on hold for sometime.

Acting on instructions from the Union ministry, Tea Board officials had arranged for a stakeholders’ meeting at their office in Calcutta tomorrow.

It was decided that Ramesh would make a formal declaration then on the launching of the special funds scheme, which was passed by the Union cabinet on December 9.

“However, because of the 24-hour strike, the entire programme has been cancelled. It will be rescheduled as and when we get a date with the minister,” Basudeb Banerjee, chairman of the Tea Board, told The Telegraph over phone from Calcutta.

Under the special purpose scheme, the Centre plans to disburse Rs 4,760 crore over a period of 15 years for rejuvenation and re-plantation of tea bushes across the country. The board, the apex agency in the tea industry, has already started developing the necessary roadmap for the disbursement of the loan.

“Though tomorrow’s programme has been cancelled, we are doing the groundwork. The moment the formal announcement is made, we will seek applications from estates, sit with banks and start processing them,” said G. Boriah, the director (tea development) of the board. “Under the first phase of the scheme, a sum of Rs 1,900 crore is likely to be disbursed.”

Representatives of tea associations, who were equally eager to attend the meeting, appeared disappointed. “Tomorrow’s meet would have been important as several factors related to the fund were scheduled to be discussed in the presence of the minister,” said Kalyan Basu, the secretary-general of the Tea Association of India.

Mohini Das, secretary, Terai Indian Planters’ Association, said: “We came to know that tomorrow’s meeting has been cancelled. We are now waiting for the next date.”

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