GUWAHATI, Oct 7: Despite being the highest producer of tea Assam is unlikely to see shifting of the headquarters of Tea Board of India from Kolkata due to opposition of such shifting by an influential lobby in West Bengal.
Even though the BJP-led Government in Dispur is making attempts to shift the Tea Board’s headquarters from Kolkata to Assam, an influential Bengal’s lobby is trying very hard to jeopardizing such attempts. The lobby is being backed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
“The lobby is strongly arguing that if the Tea Board shifts its headquarters to Assam it will face trade and other logistical problems. Since the head offices of majority of tea marketing companies are situated in Kolkata there will be a trade related problem in case the Tea Board starts operating from Assam. Kolkata is also in advantageous position in terms of various logistic and infrastructures required to market tea in a competitive national and global market. Assam may not be in such advantageous situation,” a source in Assam tea industry told The Sentinel.
State Agriculture Minister Atul Bora has been saying that it is high time to shift the headquarters of Tea Board of India from Kolkata to Guwahati. He said since Assam produces the largest quantity of tea, there cannot be any reason for the headquarters of Tea Board of India to be based in Kolkata. He argued that the Tea Board (if based in Assam) can execute its activities for the betterment of tea growers in the State more effectively.
Bora had pointed out that there are five statutory commodity boards under the Department of Commerce of Government of India — tea, coffee, rubber, spices and tobacco. “Except Tea Board, all other boards are headquartered in the States where the products are mainly grown. Karnataka is the birthplace of coffee in India and the Coffee Board is headquartered in Bengaluru. Likewise rubber cultivation in India has been traditionally confined to Tamil du and Kerala, and the Rubber Board is headquartered in Kottayam, Kerala,” Bora had argued. Similarly, Bora said the Spices Board and the Tobacco Board are headquartered in Cochin (Kerala) and Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) respectively.
Various tea and trade bodies in Assam are also demanding shifting of the Tea Board’s office to the State. An office bearer of North Eastern Tea Association said unless Dispur is successful in putting tremendous political pressure on the Centre shifting of the Tea Board office to Assam is not possible in near future.