DIBRUGARH, Nov 8 � After laying siege to the head office of the Small Tea Growers� Development Directorate at Amollapaty here for more then five hours on Friday, agitating small tea growers called off their protest following a written assurance from the Directorate officials that steps would be taken to launch an immediate crackdown on those tea factories which do not stick to the minimum benchmark price while purchasing green tea leaves from small tea growers.
The small tea growers from various parts of the district had stormed the head office of the Small Tea Growers� Development Directorate for its alleged failure to deal with their grievances. They alleged that reasonable price was not being paid for their produce despite the announcement of a minimum benchmark price by the district price monitoring committee. The growers have been getting Rs 6 to Rs 8 for every kilogram of green tea leaves though the minimum benchmark price in the district has been fixed at above Rs 18 since August.
In a joint meeting of the district leaders of the All Assam Small Tea Growers� Association, officials of the district administration, members of the Dibrugarh Industries and Commerce Centre and Small Tea Growers� Development Directorate, it was resolved that the Deputy Director of Tea Development, Small Tea Growers� Development Directorate, will issue notices to all tea factories, which violate the minimum benchmark prices of August and September, within three days and to all those violating the minimum benchmark prices of October within seven days. All the defaulting factory owners will be directed to start the payment of the balance amounts within a week, the meeting decided.
On the allegations that tea factories were submitting false information about the purchase price of green tea leaves through e-form returns to the Tea Board, the meeting resolved that the factories, which have been manipulating the e-form returns by false declaration, would be found out by a sector-level evaluation and monitoring committee, after which Tea Board would ensure the adjustment of the balance price for future purchases. For this, the branch offices of the small tea growers� body will be involved to reveal the actual price provided to them in August, September and October for scrutiny.
About 500 small tea growers had converged from different parts of the district during the demonstration. As part of their agitation, the small tea growers had called for a boycott of the harvest of green tea leaves for an indefinite period. The boycott was first called by the Naharkatia-Namrup branch of the AASTGA, which was later called for the entire district. Now with the assurance from the Directorate and with the intervention of the district administration, the boycott has been called off and the harvest of green tea leaves will resume from Monday, Lohit Buragohain, AASTGA leader, said.
Other leaders who took part in the demonstration and the subsequent joint meeting included Ashwini Barua, president, AASTGA, and Durgeswar Neog, president, AASTGA, Dibrugarh district. Additional Deputy Commissioner Jogeswar Baruah represented the district administration, while Anupam Das, Deputy Director, Tea Development, Small Tea Growers� Development Directorate, represented the Tea Board.