We write with reference to the news item published in your esteemed daily on 12th July, 2016 titled ‘Allegation against Provident Fund Scam against ATeLarid TRA’. At the outset, we would like to put in our objection on the use of words like “scam” which has been associated on allegations without verification from the concerned organisation.
Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TFRJ) of Tea Research Association (TRA), an organization which is 105 years old, looks after the R&D needs of 75% of the Indian tea production. The reputation of the organization is built of years of hard work and dedication of its scientists and employees.
In the above context, we would like to inform you that Tocklai Division of Cinmara Tea Estate bearing 142 hectares of tea land is owned by Assam Tea corporation Ltd. Tocklai Division was supposed to have been transferred to Tocklai Tea Research Institute in 1977 in lieu of land taken by Govt. of Assam from Borbhetta Experimental Tea Estate which was given to Assam Agricultural University. However the Govt. of Assam did not officially transfer Tocklai Division to TTRI. TTRI was told to run the tea division for it’s experimental work on R&D. TTRI have been requesting Govt. of Assam since 2003 to take back the Tocklai Division as running commercial estates is not the work of a research institute. The Govt. of Assam agreed in 2012 to take back the Tocklai Division by ATCL. but till date the same has not been done. So, it may kindly be noted that the owners of Tocklai-Divisionis ATCL.
TTRI owns Borbhetta Experimental Tea Estate bearing 40 hectares of tea land which is used for carrying out and validating various experiments and field trials as required on different aspects of tea cultivation and are not meant for any commercial purpose.
The TTRI is jointly funded by the Govt. of India and Tea Industry. The Ministry of Commerce & Industry has been funding 80% on five heads such as Salaries, gratuity, PF, medical and training through Tea Board in the 11th plan period. Since 2012. 31% of the Grant in Aid from the Ministry Commerce & Industry has not been released to TTRI. Apart from the normal grants, the Ministry of Commerce has reduced R&D allocation by 75% for the current year thereby leading to severe fincial crunch for R&D.
As a result of non-release of funds amounting to Rs 25 crores under va:ious heads, TTRI have been facing extreme difficulty in paying salaries and clearing the statutory dues. For the Tocklai Division which is not owned by TTRI and Borbhe plot., there is an outstanding of PF for 15 months which will be around Rs 44 lacs. TTRI plans to clear the PF dues in installments and have written to the PF office.
We are pursuing with the Ministry of Commerce & Industry pleading them to release the funds due to TTRI. Against our letter dated 09/05/2016 to the Commerce Secretary, Govt. of India, the Commerce Ministry has sought reasons for non disbursing of funds from Tea Board vide their letter dated 22105/2016. We have also written to the Assam Tea Employees’ Provident Fund Organization vide our letter dated 24’06/2016 seeking time to clear the dues including PF of garden workers, which will be possible only on receipt of balance grant from the Govt. Our accounts are regularly audited by statutory auditors as well as Tea Board of India. Therefore, the allegation published in your newspaper of a scam is absolutely baseless and false.
We are much pained and perturbed by the fact that the issue has been sensatiolized in such manner by your esteemed newspaper without verifying the real facts. This has damaged the reputation of our century old premier institute of Assam. We therefore, request you to kindly carry out a clarification on the issue by stating the facts.