A year later, no movement on education, revival packages for tea sector
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, February 23: Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi will table the annual budget for the next fincial year in the Assembly on March 10. But announcements to the tune of crores of rupees he made for the tea industry in last year’s budget still remain on paper. This despite the plight of the tea industry struggling to cope with a series of challenges, including a dip in production due to erratic weather conditions.
In section 50 (10) of the 2014-15 budget speech, “considering the educatiol backwardness of the tea and ex-tea tribe communities”, the Chief Minister had announced a special allocation of around Rs 43 crore for their educatiol advancement.
In section 50(26) of the budget speech, Gogoi had stated that “with the passage of time, some restructuring of the tea industry in Assam has become necessary… In collaboration with the Government of India, I propose to launch a comprehensive programme for revival and rejuvetion of the tea industry with special focus on small industries.”
Besides, Gogoi had said in section 50(27) of his budget speech that implementation of schemes and projects under the Rs 1,000-crore package for Barak valley had started and will continue.
However, none of these grand budgetary announcements materialized. Referring to the announcements, the Tea Association of India, in a pre-budget memorandum ahead of this year’s annual budget, stated pointedly, “We are yet to be informed of any progress thereafter in this regard”.
The association urged the State government to take necessary steps so that these schemes are implemented in their true spirit for betterment of the industry as well as of the tea community. The TAI also requested that the schemes and projects under the Rs 1,000-crore package for Barak valley be continued, especially for infrastructure development.
A senior tea executive revealed that every year industry representatives submit pre-budget memorandums to the State government, but they rarely get any major relief or relaxation in the annual State budget.
Of late, the tea industry has been plagued by a number of issues – like controversy over the supply of rations to workers, demand for wage hike and shortage of coal arising out of the ban on rat hole mining in Meghalaya. During 2014, the organized sector of the industry in Assam suffered a huge crop loss, especially in first half of the year, when the valuable first and second flush crop is produced. This has greatly neutralized the apparent buoyancy in the market price, and therefore the tea industry is looking forward to some tangible relief like tax cuts.
Tea production in Assam valley in 2014 fell by 35 million kg. Total tea production in Assam, which accounts for over 60 per cent of the country’s tea output, stood at 589.77 million kg in 2014 against 621.87 million kg the previous year.