DIBRUGARH, April 10 - Tea gardens in the State are set to resume operations, although on a lesser than normal scale, and with full Covid-19 related precautions, from Saturday. The government step follows a Union home ministry circular of March 23, where it was directed that once the initial home quarantine period is over, respective district authorities may take a final call on activities in tea gardens and other industrial sectors.
However, tea gardens in Tinsukia district will have to wait a little more. Tinsukia DC, Bhaskar Pegu, has called for a meeting of tea managements on Saturday afternoon.
The tea industry has been pleading with the State government to be allowed resumption of operations, even on a scaled down level. The tea industry in Assam employs lakhs of workers who constitute an important political pressure group that Assam can hardly afford to ignore. The garden owners� plea was not political, but existential. They have been saying that unless timely plucking is done, the tea bushes will be damaged.
As the home quarantine date for the first batch of at-risk persons ended without any major positive Covid-19 reports, it was easier for the DCs in Assam to allow resumption of tea making in the State.
The safety measures were spelt out to the tea managements, and were told that there should be no laxity in their compliance. The managements have agreed to comply, and the ball is now set for tea making to begin for the current season, from Saturday.
Dibrugarh is one of the world�s most important tea manufacturing districts. Dibrugarh DC Pallav Gopal Jha today invited tea managements to a meeting, where the conditions were laid out. Just to be sure that the preconditions are not misinterpreted, Jha also invited leaders of the ATTSA to the meeting. The DC also requested the tea managements to pay workers their two days� full wages for the recent ATTSA-called tea estate bandh in the State on March 23 and 24. It�s likely the managements would oblige.
As for the safety conditions, the tea gardens have been asked to ensure social distancing in the tea factories as well in the estates, where plucking activities would be carried out. Provision for frequent hand washing and sanitization, and face masks for all workers and employees has been made compulsory. A tea executive in the rank of welfare officer (or assistant manager in the absence of this official) would be officiating as assistant nodal officers for Covid-19 safety compliance. This executive will report to the nodal officer at the revenue circle level (at each revenue circle, the Circle Officer performs this function). A contact databank of all tea garden level assistant nodal officers will be maintained at the respective DC offices in all district headquarters.
These conditions have also been made applicable to the small tea growers and the bought leaf tea makers.
In Charaideo district, regular tea gardens will be allowed to function from a later date, it is learnt. Only small tea growers and bought leaf factories will operate there till then.