Planters wait for package

Producers of Darjeeling Tea are eagerly waiting for the Centre's nod for the proposal for a Rs 100 crore package from the Tea Board to offset to certain extent the losses suffered by them during the 104-day Gorkhaland strike.

By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Siliguri
  • Published 17.10.17
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Siliguri: Producers of Darjeeling Tea are eagerly waiting for the Centre's nod for the proposal for a Rs 100 crore package from the Tea Board to offset to certain extent the losses suffered by them during the 104-day Gorkhaland strike.

The producers of the world renowned tea apprehend that the production in 2017 will come down by around 70 per cent compared to last year because of the shutdown and the attendant problems.

"We had sought financial assistance from the Union government to compensate our losses to some extent. The Tea Board has prepared a proposal of Rs 100 crore to help us and submitted the same to the Union commerce and industry ministry, though we sought a higher package. We are waiting for the Centre's nod now and want to know how the proposal will help us," said a Siliguri-based planter who owns a tea garden in the hills.

A senior official of the Tea Board said the garden owners had sought compensation mainly to pay workers regularly and cushion the losses in earnings.

"But it is not possible for the Centre to compensate the entire loss the Darjeeling tea industry suffered during the strike," he said.

The hills have 87 tea gardens which employ around 55,000 workers.

The proposal, the tea Board official said, is likely to be used to fund the weeding and pruning of tea bushes. "Work had completely stopped in all tea gardens because of the statehood movement. As a result, tea bushes need to be pruned and weeds, which have grown up in the plantation, have to be cleared. The proposed funds are likely to be used for the purpose," said the board official.

However, the board is yet to inform the planters about the modalities for the disbursal of the funds.

Even though around 20 days have passed since the strike was withdrawn, the production is yet to start in the gardens in a full-fledged manner.

"A considerable portion of the workforce had moved outside the hills in search of jobs during the strike. Although the gardens reopened after the shutdown, they are yet to return," said a planter.

The absence of the workers has left the planters worried as the current tea season is set to end in a month. The last three months of October, November and December contribute to just around 15 per cent of the annual tea production in the hills.

The Darjeeling Tea is unavailable on international markets because of the strike.