| Helping hand
Guwahati, Oct. 15: Dispur today announced the withdrawal of sales tax on raw jute and the setting up of a jute mill at Dalgaon in Darrang district, within days of four jute farmers falling prey to police firing while protesting the low price offered by buyers for their produce.
These twin steps were among a slew of steps announced by chief minister Tarun Gogoi in an apparent attempt by the government to contain the growing unrest among the farming community seeking decent remunerative prices for their produce.
It also comes in the wake of the demand by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) for minimum support price (MSP) for jute, sugarcane, mustard and green tea leaf by small tea and paddy growers.
While jute farmers blocked NH 52 on October 10 at Bechimari, around 95km from Guwahati, which eventually resulted in the police firing, several thousand small tea growers today blocked the same highway at Biswanath Chariali in Sonitpur district, around 230km from Guwahati.
Gogoi said the government was contemplating several measures to help the farmers get decent remunerative prices.
These included withdrawal of sales tax, setting up of more jute mills, one at Dalgaon, setting up of user groups (farmers) and cooperative committees and instituting an inquiry board to find out why Guwahati Tea Auction Centre was being bypassed by those dealing in tea and procuring and milling paddy and then selling it to the Food Corporation of India.
Though Gogoi did not get into specifics, sources from the chief ministers office said withdrawal of sales tax would be only on raw jute and the jute mill would be set up at Bechimari, 4km from Dalgaon, where more than 90 per cent farmers are engaged in jute cultivation.
The five per cent sales tax imposed on raw jute would be withdrawn. Since there is only one jute mill in Silchar, we have decided to set up one at Dalgaon, so that the buyers can offer a decent price to farmers. The mill will help in value-addition. We will also encourage user groups and cooperatives to cut out the middlemen. Since only the Jute Corporation of India can raise the MSP, we are trying to ease the distress of the farmers by doing what is possible within our jurisdiction, a source said.
The announcement came on a day small tea growers (STGs) blocked NH 52 in Biswanath Chariali for two hours, despite Dispur yesterday mounting pressure on the Tea Board to ensure fair prices for green leaf.
Tea Board has decided to implement the Tea Marketing Control Order (TMCO), 2003 from October 20.
According to Krishna Sankar Hazarika, state executive member of Assam State Small Tea Growers Association, the price of green leaf in the north bank has gone down to Rs 10 from Rs 21, while seeking the implementation of TMCO. He indicated that they would continue to protest till their demand was met.
Jitu Saikia, general secretary of Sonitpur unit of the All Assam Small Tea Growers Association, claimed that over one lakh kg of plucked tea leaf were thrown today on NH 52 at Biswanath Chariali in protest against low price offered to STGs.