The Terai Indian Planters’ Association (TIPA) today came down heavily on Tea Board of India (TBI) regarding the disbursement of subsidies and also termed the acts of the board as ‘step motherly’ on the issue of fund allotment for tea producing states. Significantly, the TIPA president Mahendra Bansal, at an interaction with the press in Siliguri today, appreciated the state government’s role on three points and blamed the TBI for the present crisis in the tea industry as he explained how the industry has been reeling under ‘severe crisis’.
When asked to comment, Subhankar Mittal, another key member of the TIPA, said: “The Tea Board officials held series of meetings. The matter was discussed and we have been informing the issues to the appropriate authorities repeatedly. The officials have assured us but nothing has been done. The total outstanding subsidy dues of North Bengal tea plantations are in exes of Rs 250 crore since 2015.”
A copy of the representation was also marked to the Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, Mr Mittal claimed. “Another issue which compounds the problem for North Bengal gardens is the step motherly treatment of the North Bengal tea gardens by the Central government. The fund allotment to North Bengal tea industry through the Tea Board is curtailed in favour of Assam,” said TIPA president Mr Bansal.
Another senior member of the TIPA Prabir Seal endorsed the statement of Mr Bansal, and said: “The Tea Board of India has totally failed to ensure that the small growers get a fair price for their green leaf produce and can sell tea at fair price in auction.” But Mr Seal criticised the state’s role on the issue of withdrawal of subsidy on fertilizers for tea industry. TIPA officials appreciated the role of the state government as it waived Agriculture Income Tax on tea, introduced Chai Sundari, a housing scheme for permanent tea workers, and announced the ‘Tea Tourism and Allied Business Policy 2009’.