JORHAT, Jan 24 � Expressing concern over the pending disbursement of their deposited cess, the newly-constituted central committee of the All Assam Small Tea Growers� Association (AASTGA) on Friday said the State Industry Department�s �negligence� towards 1.20 lakh registered tea growers has caused disappointment among the farmers who contribute to about 35 per cent of the total green leaf produced in the State.
At a press conference here, AASTGA president Gopal Krishna Khaund alleged that the amount of cess deposited by the small tea growers to factories has already crossed Rs 100 crore. However, factory officials have refrained from giving them any receipt for collecting 25 paise for each kg of green leaf.
�No valid document has been provided by the factories after collecting cess from our growers. Though the State Industry Minister promised us to disburse the deposited money, he did not do it. We have been depositing 25 paise for each kg of green leaf since June, 2009 without getting any receipt from the factories,� said Khaund.
It may be mentioned here that the Industry Department has promised them to take their deposits from the buyers for opening the corpus fund and release the money for the welfare of the small tea gardens and their workers as per the provisions of the Assam Taxation (on Specified Land) Amendment Act, 2009.
Though the department distributed some amount of the said money to some self-help groups of growers, the AASTGA alleged that only one per cent farmers got the benefit last year, while 99 per cent depositors are still being deprived of it.
The farmers, who promised to comply with the Tea Board�s direction for producing quality leaf, said that neither any minister nor other officials concerned could clarify how much of their cess has been deposited in the corpus fund since its formation.
Alleging government negligence, the growers� body said that the Chief Minister also did not give them any chance for an official discussion on the issue despite repeated requests.
�We have a lot of problems. Most of our farmers are still being deprived of permanent land pattas. We request the Government to take proper initiatives for the small growers who have shown exemplary results in the tea industry across the 23 districts of the State,� said Rajen Bora, working president of the AASTGA.
Requesting the Government to inspire the growers, Tea Board�s former vice chairperson Dinesh Kumar Sarmah said that without implementing welfare schemes for hard-working farmers, the desired result of quality tea production in the State cannot be achieved.
Along with the president and the working president, many other office-bearers of the AASTGA including Dipak Gogoi and Jogesh Bikash Chetia were also present in the press conference.