JORHAT, Sept 19 - Ongoing research work on several important projects on tea have been stalled at the105-year-old Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TTRI) as the world�s first and largest institute for research and development of the tea industry is seriously plagued by �unprecedented� financial crisis.
Since its inception in 1911, though the premier tea research institute could successfully stitch together a string of trailblazing research outputs and innovations for development of tea, it has not been provided with the required amount of Government funds even for normal functioning.
�Severe fund crunch has hampered normal functioning of the institute and an impending danger is looming large over its very existence. Ongoing research works have also taken a severe beating,� said Dr Shyamal Prasad Baruah, joint convenor of TRA Officers� Association and Tocklai Employees� Union.
He said that scientists could not engage adequate number of manpower for several important works like data collection and experimentation for some Government-funded projects as limited funds were released by the Government over the past few years. The institute has only 139 employees (including scientists, officials and subordinate staff), though it had engaged over 400 employees for daily works of research and development at its Jorhat premises a few years back.
Several tea scientists and official staff opined that the Government is yet to take necessary steps for survival of the premier tea research institute though they appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Recently, they again appealed to the Chief Minister and State Commerce and Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary to convince the Central Government for providing around Rs 34 crore of its outstanding dues for survival of the institute.
�The Tocklai crisis may be divided into two phases, one is of short term or the present crisis and the second is the existential decision for its long-term sustainability. To cover up the present fund crunch, the Union Ministry of Commerce should be approached for release of the outstanding money which roughly comes to around Rs 34 crore,� office-bearers of the Coordination Committee of Tocklai Officers� Association and Employees� Union stated.
Research works have been hampered seriously as the scientists could not engage sufficient manpower for experimentation and data collection as limited amounts of Government funds were released for engaging minimum manpower. Besides, the Kolkata-based head office of the Tea Board of India is also alleged to be delaying the amount which was released by the Central Government for research and development works of the Jorhat-based Tocklai Tea Research Institute.
�The present arrangement of routing finance through the Tea Board of India is detrimental to Tocklai�s growth and the system should be dispensed with immediately,� the Coordination Committee stated in a memorandum which was submitted before the Commerce and Industry Minister Patowary.
The TTRI officials also said that though the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government offered 80 per cent grants-in-aid to the premier institute under the 11th Plan, it was reduced by the successive governments to 49 per cent, which gradually led to a difficult financial condition.