GUWAHATI, Aug 11 � It is good news for the tea industry of the country. The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce in its August 9 report to Parliament, has recommended declaration of tea as the national drink of India. The matter has been pending since 2006.
The Committee is of the view that tea is an integral part of the socio-cultural milieu of the country and enjoys a space in the hearth of every home irrespective of caste, class, religion and economic status of the person.
According to the Joint Forum of the Assam Tea Planters�Association (ATPA), North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) and the Bharatiya Cha Parishad (BCP), the Parliamentary Committee has noted tea as indigenous to India and as the only beverage which has roots in India�s freedom struggle. The first Indian tea planter, Maniram Dewan was hanged for his role in the 1857 mutiny!
It is the cheapest and most widely consumed beverage across the length and breadth of the country. Further, the tea industry is agro-based and labour intensive, providing direct employment to over one million persons. Through its forward and backward linkages another 10 million persons derive their livelihood. It is also the largest employer of women, amongst the organized industries in India, since women constitute nearly 51 per cent of its total workforce.
The excerpts of the recommendations reveal that there is an overwhelming demand from almost all the tea industry stakeholders for giving the beverage the status of �National Drink�. The Committee was informed that 83 per cent of the Indian households consume tea while penetration of tea is purportedly in the range of 96 to 99 per cent in both urban and rural areas of the country.
With a land area of 5,80,000 hectares and more under tea cultivation, India offers the widest range of teas in terms of taste, strength and flavour � Darjeeling, Assam Orthodox, Assam CTC, Dooars-Terai, Nilgiri CTC, Kangra and green. It is the fourth largest exporter of tea with a share of about 12 per cent of the global exports.
The Committee has learnt that many countries have their national drinks like Argentina having Mate as its national drink; Brazil having Cachaga as its national drink, Pakistan having sugar cane juice as its national drink and China having green tea as its national drink.
The Committee has allayed the fears that declaring tea as a �national drink� will be at the cost of coffee or other beverages. It has agreed with the submission that declaration of mango as national fruit has not undermined the position held by apple or other fruits for that matter.
The Joint Forum of ATPA, NETA and the BCP has expressed extreme happiness over the recommendations of the Committee and has made an appeal to the Government to declare tea as the National Drink of the country expeditiously.