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Put Priority on Quality

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  2 Aug 2017 12:00 AM GMT

The Union government is reported to have taken what it considers urgent and vital steps to promote the interests of the small tea growers of Assam. This is indeed a laudable development. Replying to a related question in the Lok Sabha on Monday, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman said that the mini tea factories had been exempted from obtaining any registration and ‘no objection’ certificates for manufacturing tea. They will only have to obtain a certificate from the “certifying authority” of the Tea Board. Besides, in order to boost tea cultivation by small tea growers, the Union government provides fincial assistance to small tea growers through the Tea Board for new planting, replanting, rejuvetion pruning, irrigation and field mechanization. 'The minister announced that during the period from 2012-13 to 2016-17, a sum of Rs 14.82 crore had been spent for the benefit of small tea growers. A separate Small Growers Directorate is now operatiol in Dibrugarh to look after the development needs of the small tea growers by way of extending regular technical support and training and to help them to organize self help groups (SHGs) and to motivate them for establishing their own processing factories.
While much of what the Centre has done to promote small tea growers and small tea producing units in Assam is welcome, it must constantly bear in mind that very few senior bureaucrats in New Delhi know anything about tea and the new trend of small tea growers trying to manufacture Assam tea in very small factories. Most of these entrepreneurs have very limited experience of growing and manufacturing tea. Even so, they deserve all the fincial assistance and technical support as well as training in order to succeed as entrepreneurs in a State where industrial development of any kind is about the lowest in the country. At the same time, it is important for the Centre to ensure that the world-wide fame and the quality of Assam tea does not suffer in any manner due to some of the uncalled for exemptions that have been extended to small tea growers. For instance, the exemption granted to them from having to register their firms or companies was certainly uncalled for. Likewise, if existing manufacturers of tea are required to obtain ‘no objection’ certificates to manufacture tea, one sees no valid reason as to why newcomers to the industry alone should be exempted from having to obtain ‘no objection’ certificates. These are not tasks that call for any special skills. In fact, it is extremely hazardous to permit any entrepreneur to run a factory that is not properly registered with the appropriate authorities. Such exemptions encourage undesirable shortcuts and questioble manufacturing practices that deviate from established and acceptable norms. In fact, it is such exemptions that lead to a total breakdown of discipline in industrial undertakings. There are already complaints from different countries that import Assam tea about a general deterioration in its quality. It is quite possible that what is happening to the reputation of Assam tea is, at least to a small measure, due to the liberties taken by small manufacturers in respect of quality control in the manufacture of tea. The remedy for this lies not in granting reckless exemptions to manufacturers, but rather in the competent monitoring of the manufacture of tea in small units. For this to happen, the Centre itself must have the humility to accept that there is very little expertise related to tea production in New Delhi and that the kind of monitoring expertise required to ensure and sustain the reputation of Assam tea must be sought within the State rather than outside it.

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