Upset over the sudden financial burden imposed on them by both the Centre and the state since 5 July to 8 July, planters today registered their protest and wrote to the state agriculture minister and met the Kalpaiguri District Magistrate about the issues at hand.

Planters were already not happy with Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s proposal on 5 July to impose 2 percent TDS on cash withdrawals exceeding Rs 1 crore in a year from banks, when the state agriculture department on 8 July issued a notification and asked wholesale dealers and distributors not to sell urea and other subsidized fertilizer to the tea industry

Notably, the deputy director of agriculture (administration) also instructed that dealers and distributors will sell fertilizers to agriculture and horticulture sectors. The Tea Association of India (TAI) protested the decision of the state government and wrote to state agriculture minister Asish Banerjee, informing him that different fertilizers, including urea, are vital to the tea industry and that the supply branch of the Tea Board, Kolkata, used to render assistance to the tea industry in procurement, movement and distribution of various materials.

In a letter to Mr Banerjee, the Secretary General of the TAI, PK Bhattacharjee, said fertilizers for the tea industry were allotted by the Union ministry of agriculture on the basis of requirements indicated by the Tea Board.

Mr Bhattacharjee also pointed out that the memo of the deputy director of agriculture in Jalpaiguri will create problems for tea garden managements in procuring subsidized fertilizer from the market and “push the economic viability of around 150 plantations in Jalpaiguri district to uncertainty.”

Similarly, the Indian Tea Association (ITA) and other bodies protested the same and met Jalpaiguri DM Abhishek Kumar Tiwary today.

In a representation to the DM, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of India Tea Plantation (DBITA), Sumanto Guho Thakurata, pointed out that the tea industry pays agriculture income tax, green leaf cess and land revenue and others to the state exchequer, and acknowledging tea as agriculture commercial banks accord advances to tea companies as agriculture advances with prime lending rate.

“The entire tea industry is passing through an extremely tough phase for the past 6/7 years owing to un-remunerative price realization, escalating cost of production and vagaries of nature, coupled with myriad of other industrial issues. Given the precarious scenario, any further enhancement in cost due to non-availability of subsidized fertilizers would not only severely impact garden finances, but will also affect millions of workers associated with this age old industry,” Mr Guho Thakurata said.

Meanwhile, the Joint Forum, a conglomeration of over 23 trade unions, will hold a meeting on 14 July and discuss many issues, including additional financial burden on the tea industry, it is learnt.