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Tea plea for exemption for north Bengal

The lockdown was announced amid the production of the first flush tea which commands the highest price

By Avijit Sinha in Siliguri
  • Published 1.04.20, 2:31 AM
  • Updated 1.04.20, 2:31 AM
  • a min read
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All tea gardens, both small and big, and bought-leaf factories (BLFs) are shut in north Bengal following the announcement of the nationwide lockdown. Telegraph file picture

The Assam government’s decision to allow tea production has prompted planters in north Bengal to seek exemption for the sector from the lockdown from April 1.

Vivek Goenka, the chairman of the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations, wrote to Bengal chief secretary Rajiva Sinha on Tuesday, saying guidelines for the prevention of Covid-19’s spread, like sanitisation and social distancing of workers, would be followed during the production.

All tea gardens, both small and big, and bought-leaf factories (BLFs) are shut in north Bengal following the announcement of the nationwide lockdown.

The Bengal chief secretary had issued an order some days back, mentioning that only spraying of pesticides and irrigation for the maintenance of tea bushes would be allowed.

“We would request you to kindly consider granting exemption to the tea sector from lockdown and allow tea estates to resume full operations subject to the prescribed safety and hygiene guidelines….” reads the letter sent by Goenka, the chairman of the apex body of the tea planters’ associations.

The lockdown was announced amid the production of the first flush tea which commands the highest price.

The production of the second flush tea will start soon.

“The first and second flushes yield best prices. As the Centre included tea in the list of essential food items which are kept outside the purview of the lockdown, we want the state to announce exemption for the tea industry. We would surely abide by the guidelines like sanitisation and social distancing to ensure that workers and their families, managerial staff and others associated with the production remain safe,” said a tea planter based in Siliguri.

The Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Associations (Cista) has also sent a similar letter to Sinha.

“If the Assam government can allow the resumption of tea production, Bengal too, can take a similar decision. We are ready to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, the small tea sector and the tea industry as a whole would face huge losses and it would take months for the revival,” said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, the president of the Cista.