Planters have started discussing information that they have about disbursement of pending subsidy for West Bengal after a section of them came to know that Rs 4 crore may be disbursed for North Bengal, Coonoor and Plampur areas.

“The pending subsidy dues in North Bengal alone amount to Rs 32 crore, for which sanction letters have been issued. Subsidy disbursement in Assam is more or less up-todate. We cannot understand why the Tea Board of India (TBI) is behaving like a step mother,” said a planter in this region, on condition of anonymity. “Subsidy claims in the pipeline for which sanction letters have not been issued are estimated to be to the tune of Rs 300 crore,” he added. “How will the TBI’s Siliguri office manage planters who are entitled to get such subsidy. I am entitled to get Rs 1.5 crore subsidy for my garden. Production is being hampered due to the delay in the disbursement of the same,” said another planter in the Hills.

Another senior planter in the region has written to state government officials on the matter in detail, also highlighting the plight of planters.

Asked to comment, the deputy director of the TBI (Tea Development), K Kujur, said that he has heard of the matter.

“However, officially I have not yet received any information about the disbursement of subsidy for North Bengal planters,” he said.

“Financial assistance for Darjeeling planters for the losses incurred during the 104 days of strike (in 2017) is also in the pipeline,” Mr Kujur added.

A senior planter in the Hills is optimistic about the financial assistance from the Centre, following Darjeeling MP Raju Bista’s statement after he held a meeting with the Union minister for commerce and industries, Piyush Goyal.

It may be noted that the chairman of the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA), Binod Mohan, had urged the TBI to give preference to plantations in Darjeeling Hills while disbursing subsidy, because, according to him, gardens in the Hills were under tremendous stress pursuant to the 104-day strike and disturbances in 2017, due to which approximately 60 percent of the annual crop could not be harvested, including the second flush.

Significantly, the then Joint Secretary of the Tea Board, Santosh Sarangi, had informed the Chairman of the TBI, requesting him to give priority to Darjeeling tea gardens while releasing the subsidy

Apparently upset, a planter in the Hills today said: “Nobody knows whether the TBI honours Sarangi and his written advice.”

Planters here are also discussing the Darjeeling MP and his press statement after his meeting with Union Labour and Employment minister Santosh Gangwar. They are discussing whether the MP pointed out the plight of the 22 closed tea estates in North Bengal and if there are plans to reopen the tea estates.

“Did Darjeeling MP Raju Bista discuss Rungli Rungliot where more than 10,000 kg of teas were recently sold by a committee comprising the management and trade unions at Rs 150 per kg, though he earlier claimed that Darjeeling tea is being sold at Rs 1.50 lakh per kg,” the planters discussed.