GUWAHATI, Oct 20 � The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), in a memorandum faxed to the Prime Minister this evening, has demanded national drink status for tea.
The regional party stated in a statement here it has argued that tea should be declared the national drink of the country not because of any monetary consideration, but because of the fact that it deserves this status. Moreover, tea is a beverage of Indian origin, contrary to coffee.
It resented the statement made by Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman on the issue at a press meet held in the city recently after the tea industry stakeholders� consultation. The Union Minister had said at the press conference that the Union Government had no plan to declare tea as a national drink as it would �hamper� the growth of coffee.
The regional party said since the demand has been raised by the people of North East India, political parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have been trying to ignore it.
The party has also called for a minimum support price for the green tea leaves produced by the small tea growers with an insurance scheme linked with it.
It also called for steps to promote Assam Tea more in India because 90 per cent of Assam Tea is black tea and India is the largest consumer of black tea in the world. In this connection, the regional party pointed to the fact that in the name of promoting Assam Tea, the officials of the State�s Directorate of Tea have been unnecessarily making trips to foreign countries.
It further demanded that the State�s Industry Minister publish a white paper on the green tea leaf cess the State Government is collecting from the small tea growers at the rate of 25 paisa per kg of the green leaf they produce.
The State Government has been earning around Rs 23 crore annually since 2009 from this cess, said the party. The regional party urged both the Union and the State Governments to ensure payment of proper wages to the tea estate workers and not to play politics on the issue.
The party has urged the Union Government also to set up tea auction centres at Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Silchar to ensure selling of the State�s tea through the auction centres of the State. Moreover, it demanded that like other tea auction centres of the country, the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre should also be run by a trade body, not by a Minister. The auction centre should be free from any political intervention, it said.