As heavy rainfall batters tea gardens in the Terai and the Dooars, planters have said the industry has incurred losses to the tune of Rs 200 crore in the past few days. Given the low production of tea and the damages done by rain waters in the garden areas, planters also fret over the Puja bonus that they are supposed to pay this year.
According to officials at the planters’ associations, there was 50 per cent shortfall of rain in a particular tea belt till 2 July, and after that the region received heavy rains and the entire Terai and Dooars regions were hit, with the waters causing a flood-like situation. The Dooars circle of the North Bengal Branch of the Tea Association of India (TAI) has expressed serious concern over the bonus payments even as the Durga Puja knocks. Such concerns have been mentioned in a report submitted by the plantaers’ organisation to the Alipurduar Distric Magistrate on 22 July. In the report, planters also sought help from the administration during the crisis that has come up due to the torrential rains.
The TAI further claimed that the losses faced by the the tea plantations in north Bengal amounted to more than Rs 200 core. “The production in tea plantations in the Dooars during these rainy days also fell due to less attendance of the workers. The river water which flowed over the tea plantations carried harmful dolomite from our neighbouring country Bhutan. It damaged large portions of the plantation areas in the Dooars. Moreover, erosion damaged large tracts of plantation area. Tea plantations in the Dooars faced heavy losses, which we have mentioned in the report submitted to the Alipurduar DM,” the secretary of the Dooars circle of the North Bengal Branch of the TAI, Ram Avatar Sharma, said. “Yes, we also expressed our concerns regarding mobilisation of funds for the Durga Puja bonus to be paid among workers, staff, sub-staff and casual workers,” he added. The president of the Dooars Cha Bagan Workers’ union, Gopal Pradhan, however, said that workers are not responsible for the natural calamity. “It is true that tea gardens faced losses due to the downpour and flood-like situation, but the workers are not responsible for this natural calamity. Durga Puja Bonus is a lawful right of the workers. Workers must be given the bonus this year too,” he said.
The secretary of the Terai branch of the Indian Tea Association (TBITA), Sanjay Bagchi, said there was a 25 percent slump in tea production in June. “The production in July is also less, owing to the massive rains and other factors,” he said. “The growth in the tea plantation is less because of the lack of sun shine over the past few days. Traditionally, planters make profit in the peak season–from June to September–and manage funds for bonus from the profit,” Mr Bagchi added.