GUWAHATI, July 12 � The State government will move a resolution in the State Assembly on setting up tea factories in the cooperative sector for the benefit of the small tea growers. This was announced by Agriculture Minister Nilamani Sen Deka in the State Assembly here today.
The minister was replying to a discussion initiated by Rameswar Dhanowar (Congress) through a private member�s resolution on the issue, on behalf of the Industries Minister Pradyut Bordoloi.
The minister said that as per the findings of a State government survey, there are over 68,000 small tea gardens in the State. They contribute around 25 per cent tea to the total volumn of tea produced by the State, which earns Rs 15 crore as cess from these tea gardens.
The government is considering ploughing this cess amount back to these gardens. Moreover, the government is also considering an easy process to grant land patta to these tea gardens.
The Tea Board has been contacted on formulating an approach on the bought leaf factories. Meanwhile, haphazard growth of such factories has been posing problems for the tea industry of the State, the minister said.
The Tea Board is also contacted by the State government on the issue of setting up tea factories on cooperative basis. Moreover, the State government is considering a two per cent incentive to the small tea growers, he said.
Earlier, initiating the discussion, Rameswar Dhanowar said that the small tea gardens should be allowed to set up factories on cooperative basis and send their produces to the tea auction centre.
Giving a genesis of the small tea growers� movement, he said that in December 2007, there were 107 bought leaf factories (BLFs), which were thriving on the green tea leaves produced by the small tea gardens. Together, these BLFs could produce 5, 11,885 tonnes of tea during that year.
If allowed to set up factories on cooperative basis, the small tea growers would be immensely helped and this will free them from the clutches of the big tea planters, Dhanowar said.
Lending support to the resolution moved by Dhanowar, Sarat Barkotoky (Congress) pleaded for the revival of the Charaipung factory set up on cooperative basis.
Etowa Munda (Congress) while lending his support to Dhanowar�s resolution, said that while safeguarding the interest of the small tea growers, interest of the tea labourers should also be protected.
Pallav Das (Congress) said that the State government should get itself involved in the initiative to set up tea factories under cooperative basis for rescuing the small tea growers.
Sarat Saikia (Congress), who is also an advisor of the Small Tea Growers� Association, pleaded for permanent settlement of land to the small tea growers in a expeditious manner.
Padma Hazarika (AGP) said that the land settlement to these tea growers should be taken up on a priority basis, or else, the initiative to set up tea factories on cooperative basis for the benefit of these tea growers won�t fructify.
He also insisted upon the government to take up the issue of setting up factories for the benefit of the small tea growers firmly with the Tea Board. Without the permission of the Tea Board, the State Industry Department can do nothing in this regard, he warned.
Taking part in the discussion, Keshav Mahanta (AGP) said that the small tea gardens have now been providing employment to about 12 lakh people. But he lamented that the government has been charging land revenue from these tea gardens at an exorbitant rate of Rs 200 per bigha.
He also raised the issue of failure of the State government to impress upon the Central government for appointment of an Assam cadre IAS officer as the chairman of the Tea Board this time.
In the discussion, Moinuddin Ahmed (AIUDF), Bhupen Roy (AGP), Monoranjan Das (BJP), Kamal Singh Narzary (BPF), Dilip Moran (BJP) and Prabin Hazarika (AGP), among others took part.
Following the assurance of the minister, Dhanowar withdrew his resolution.