SILCHAR, March 27: Of the 101 tea gardens in Barak Valley, West Jalinga has eked out a distinctive place for itself for its organic tea plantation. It is the largest tea garden producing organic tea in India and its product is sold directly in intertiol market. Along with that, there are two more estates, Kumbhirgram and Boobrighat, in this valley which have gone organic. These two states also sell their organic tea direct in the intertiol market. This tells a different story of high quality and for that these three tea estates also are an example of remarkable turround in their history of success.
Sushanta Karmamkar, development officer and in-charge of regiol office, Tea Board of India, here, said, “It is indeed a positive development in respect of West Jalinga and two other tea estates since the beverage consumers now prefer organic tea. If all the other tea estates of the valley follow the example of West Jalinga, it will bring about a revolutiory phase in the more than 200 years of the history of Barak Valley tea.” According to informed source, Jalinga accounts for over 30% of the entire organic tea manufactured in India outpacing organic Darjeeling tea production.
West Jalinga is just 25 km from here on way to Assam University. One is attracted by the lush green plantations that dot the beautiful landscape around. Not long ago, West Jalinga has been in obscurity. Its success has brought it on the world map of tea, making it the largest organic plantation in the world. What makes organic tea different is that it is an invigorating beverage quite unlike the crop nurtured and nourished with chemical and bio-fertilizers. West Jalinga produces around 1 million kg annually and is spread over 466 hectares of land.
What makes West Jalinga tea exportable is its quality and healthy brand and has earned a unique reputation in intertiol market. The 133 year old garden changed hands. It was facing a good number of problems. The per hectare production was too low. Pest-mece motivated the magement to go organic, shifting from chemicals. Sushanta Karmakar said the success story of West Jalinga will one day, which is not far off, prompt the tea gardens to go organic, replacing replacing fertilizers and pesticides. He is also optimistic with people abroad preferring organic tea, this estate in the remote corner of the country can hope to export the bulk of its produce. Giving a general overview of Barak Valley tea gardens, Sushanta Karmakar said tea is the only industry and mainstay of economy. It employees 72,000 work force, of which 42,000 are permanent and 30,000 casual. The total production of tea is 55 million kg annually. On the question of quality, he did say that tea produced in Brahmaputra Valley is better, for that he attributed it to soil condition and climate. But, now Barak tea is showing improvement both in quantity and quality. The Tea Board of India also plays an important role in the tea estates of this valley by helping them with re-plantation scheme, irrigation facility and rejuvetion plan.
The Board, as he pointed out, also helps the small planters who number around 270. They are given training and important incentives by organizing workshops. But, one of the disquieting factor is the migration of labour from the tea gardens of Barak Valley to much more greener pastures of Hyderabad and Bangaluru, revealed Sushanta Karmakar. The Board, Karmakar said, has labour welfare schemes also to help the boys and girls of tea garden workers to pursue their studies from primary to the highest level of education. Those who secure 60% or more in HSLC and HS are given Rs.4000 and Rs.5000 as stipend respectively. For cancer and cardiac patients, there is also special package of help.