GUWAHATI, Apr 13 (PTI): Plucking of tea leaves have started in different tea gardens in Assam with 50 per cent of the workers in attendance as per the guidelines laid down by the government for maintaining social distancing and saitization process to control the spread of COVID-19.
With the Central government permitting opening of tea gardens with certain preconditions, the different district administrations in the tea growing areas of both Brahmaputra valley in north and Barak valley in south Assam have issued orders for plucking of tea leaves.
The district deputy commissioners' orders said that the tea gardens/those run and operated by small tea growers/ bought leaf are allowed to operate with certain preconditions so as to enable the gradual resumption of normal activities to avoid the economic losses of the tea gardens.
The orders said that the tea industry, including plantation, with maximum of 50 per cent workers to remain open as specified in lockdown measures ensuring social distancing and proper hygiene practices in each activity.
Tea Association of India secretary Deepanjol Deka told PTI that plucking of tea leaves by strictly following the set guidelines have resumed as per schedule set by each DC for their respective district fixing different dates.
Avinash Borooah, an owner of a tea garden in lower Assam on Monday said plucking of tea leaves began on Sunday by following social distancing norms and sanitization processes.
"We are employing strictly 50 per cent of our total workforce as per the guidelines laid down by the government for starting operations. Water and soap with sanitizers have been kept for the workers to frequently wash their hands to maintain utmost hygiene," Borooah said.
Tea garden manager Junti Gogoi in upper Assam, the main tea growing belt of the state, said, "the distance to be taken by the workers has been marked and we are monitoring that it is maintained by them to follow the government directions."
The tea bushes have grown much beyond their stipulated height due to the lockdown since March 25, Gogoi said, adding that all the extra leaves will be pruned leaving two leaves and a bud for producing tea leaves.
Another tea planter B N Bhattacharya in Barak valley said the irrigation facilities of his garden have been started to water the tea bushes that had remained untended for over two weeks.
Noting restrictions within tea garden appears to have started inviting unwarranted situations as the industry is the lifeline of the districts and also being the major source of income generation, the DCs' orders said "it is understandable that continuity and resumption of the tea industry will certainly act as fillip to an age-old activity."
It is the responsibility of the head of the organizations to ensure compliance of the norms enumerated, the orders said, with preconditions that include among others, that all workers be provided with masks, adequate soap or sanitizers before commencement of work, before lunch and before leaving work place, timing of reporting for plucking for permanent and temporary pluckers may be staggered to avoid assembly ensuring social distance.
The other guidelines are deployment should be done leaving one row in between, number of weightment be reduced with different timings to ensure minimum one meter social distancing, all workers be adequately provided with protective gears, one worker be assigned to feed green leaf in a single trough in the factory, social distancing during spraying and irrigation.
Strict vigil on returnee migrants to be ensured as per government guidelines and the lists as well as any developments to be shared with Health department, Asha workers and district administration.