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regular-article-logo Friday, 26 July 2024

Tea planters in Dooars worry about worker truancy

Low prices, import from Nepal among other concerns

Avijit Sinha Siliguri Published 22.01.23, 06:22 AM
The 145th annual general meeting of the Dooars Branch of Indian Tea Association in progress at the Central Dooars Club in Binnaguri, Jalpaiguri, on Saturday.

The 145th annual general meeting of the Dooars Branch of Indian Tea Association in progress at the Central Dooars Club in Binnaguri, Jalpaiguri, on Saturday. Biplab Basak

The tea planters’ fraternity in Dooars has expressed concern about the rise in absenteeism among workers and lower price realisations of the brew made in the region.

“Even though the tea wages have been increased in a regular manner, the rate of absenteeism has not declined. These days, it is 40 to 50 per cent among male workers and as a whole, it is around 33 per cent. Such disinclination among a section of the workforce is taking its toll on the industry,” said J C Pande, the chairman of Dooars Branch of Indian Tea Association (DBITA).

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He was speaking at the 145th annual general meeting of the association that was held at the Central Dooars Club in Binnaguri of Jalpaiguri district on Saturday. As of now, the daily wage rate of tea workers is 232 rupees in Bengal. It was revised in June last year.

Pande mentioned that in 2022, the total production of Indian teas will be close to 1,350 million kilos of which, north Bengal’s contribution will be around 400 million kilos.

“However, if we go by the prices, the scene is quite dismal for Dooars. While the all-India average price of a kilo of tea was around 173.95 rupees in 2022, the average price of Dooars tea was 92.17 rupees. This indicates a vast gap in price realization which again, is a poser for the tea industry of this region,” he said.

Nayantara Palchoudhuri, the chairperson of the Indian Tea Association, the largest in India, also underscored the price issue.

“In Bengal, the daily wages have increased by Rs 56 over a span of two years but tea prices continue to remain non-remunerative. As per the data available from the auctions, around 45 per cent of CTC and dust teas of north India have been sold at prices less than 175 rupees per kilo which is below the cost of production. This is indeed a challenge for the tea sector,” she said.

At the meeting, the planters underscored that both the state and central governments should come forward and help the industry to cut down its social costs.

They also flagged indiscriminate import of teas from Nepal and insisted on stringent mechanisms to ensure that the imported tea did not affect the domestic and international markets of Indian teas.

Over the past few years, stakeholders of the industry have mentioned that orthodox Nepal tea is being imported here and then sold in the domestic and international markets as Darjeeling tea. The practice is affecting the market of the world-famous brew of Darjeeling hills, they had pointed out.

The DBITA representatives, however, said there is one silver lining, exports.

“There has been a rise of 13 per cent in exports (around 25 million kilos) in 2022 compared to the two preceding years. We believe it will reach the 230 million kilo mark,” said Pande.

Satellite phone case

Siliguri: A US citizen, arrested at Bagdogra airport on Friday for carrying a satellite phone, was granted bail by a local court here on Saturday.

Sources said the CISF detained Thomas Esroh of Texas during security check. Bagdogra police arrested him.

Esroh had been to Sikkim to train armymen to operate drones, sources said. The court ordered his release on PR bond. He can appear in trial via videoconference.

Teacher held

Jalpaiguri: A high school teacher in Siliguri was arrested on Friday for allegedly taking money from people by promising them jobs in upper primary schools.

Pankaj Barman was produced in court on Saturday and sent in police custody for a week. Fellow teacher Santosh Barman was arrested in the same case on January 9.

Santosh, during his interrogation, had revealed Pankaj’s name.

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