Members of the All Assam Small Tea Growers Association in Dibrugarh. Picture by Avik Chakraborty
Dibrugarh, July 15: The All Assam Small Tea Growers' Association (ASTGA) has demanded land pattas for the small tea growers.
The Association's general secretary Rohit Borgohain told reporters that the government had assured that it would provide land pattas to the small tea growers but till now the assurance has not been implemented. He said land pattas to the small tea growers will help them get benefits from the Tea Board apart from getting aid from banks easily.
"On July 8, we had a meeting with agriculture minister Atul Bora in Golaghat and we discussed the problems faced by the small tea growers in Assam. He promised to discuss the matter with the state government and the Union industry minister. We submitted a memorandum to Bora stating all the problems of the small tea growers,'' said Gopal Krishna Khaund, president of the Association.
"On February 1, during a meeting with the government they had given us an assurance that they will provide land pattas to the small tea growers and we will pay Rs 1,000 for 1 bigha of land but till now nothing has been done for providing the land pattas to small tea growers,'' Borgohain said, adding that there are 1.34 lakh small tea growers in Assam who annually produce 980million kg of tea and if their demands are not met within the timeframe, they will be forced to launch an agitation.
"We are getting a price of Rs 16 to 17 per kg for green tea leaves from the factory owners while the Tea Board of India has recently ordered to pay Rs 18.89 per kg but we are not getting the appropriate amount. We demand that the factory owners pay Rs 25 per kg to small tea growers,'' Borgohain said.
Moreover, he said, their production has decreased since 2011 because of the weather conditions and they are not getting any help from the Tea Board.
The Association said the Guwahati tea auction centre should be modernised and auctions should be held three days a week. They demanded that tea auction centres be opened in Dibrugarh and Jorhat as well.
Khaund said small tea growers had exported more than 25,000kg of organic tea to foreign countries last year and more than 6,000 small tea growers have switched to organic farming.
"We have been facing immense problems and are not getting any aid from the Tea Board of India in this time of crisis. Altogether 510 tea factories take green tea leaves from us and we are badly exploited as they pay a meagre price for the leaves,'' Khaund said.