Despite losses to exchequer, Dispur treating pampered tea estates with kid gloves
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, Jan 5: Despite benefiting from huge government subsidies and nomil land revenue for decades on end, many tea gardens in Assam are not paying their land revenue regularly. What is more shocking is that the State government is treating such defaulters with kid gloves, desisting from taking any action till date.
Consider this — compared to the normal land revenue, tea gardens need to pay only Rs 22 per bigha of tea cultivation area and Rs 150 per bigha for factory area. Three years back, the revenue for tea cultivation area was only Rs 12 per bigha.
Interestingly, when the State government hiked the revenue by Rs 10 per bigha, tea companies moved the court protesting the move. Tea companies are paying the enhanced revenue, but under protest.
It has now come to light that some tea gardens have outstanding revenues of Rs 20 to Rs 40 lakh. Dolohaat Tea Estate in Lakhimpur has outstanding revenue to the tune of Rs 23 lakh; while in Karimganj district, Pathani Tea Estate and Longlai Tea Estate have outstanding revenues of Rs 21 lakh and 24 lakh respectively and Jalan gar Tea Estate Rs 2.55 lakh. In Golaghat district, Hatikhali Tea Estate has outstanding revenue of Rs 40 lakhs while Negheriting Tea Estate has Rs 3 lakhs still to pay.
Under the Assam Land Revenue Act, the district administration should serve immediately notice to defaulters and if a defaulter fails to come up with a satisfactory response, the district administration can seize its land. But in the case of defaulting tea gardens, the promptness of district administrations is missing.
Official sources told The Sentinel that even though the deputy commissioners serve notices to tea garden owners and companies, they keep postponing the deadlines citing excuses.
It has been also learnt that major tea companies operating in the State pay their revenue regularly, but many small tea companies and owners are defaulters.
It may be mentioned that many tea gardens have been encroaching upon a huge amount of land in the State, while from time to time, there are allegations of gross violation of human rights inside gardens. Now adding to it, they are not paying land revenue to the State government. Will the government act, or will it continue to sweep such brazen defaulting under the carpet?