Ex-Manager return to Garden after 40 years

After 40 years, Roderick Brown, once the manager at several Dooars tea estates, is on a trip down the memory lane, literally.

The 78-year-old Briton, accompanied by his wife, is on a visit to his former workplace in the Dooars, to check out how time has changed the gardens in the plains of north Bengal. “Both of us had been thinking of coming to India, especially to the tea estates and Darjeeling, for a long time. Finally, our four grandchildren put us on the plane,” he said.

Standing on the portico of Central Dooars Club in Binnaguri, Roderick, who used to be the manager in estates like Zurantee and Aibheel in the Dooars from 1951 to 1967, recalled how different life on plantations used to be during his time. “The roads were pathetic and the communication system was poor,” he said. “At the estates, we used to lead a lonely life.”

The former manager reminisced the good old days when workers were not bogged down by shut-down crisis. “The labourers used to join work in the morning. After dusk, they would make merry, singing, beating drums and sometimes even dancing,” he said.

Roderick married Janine in 1955. “After a few months, I left our Gloucestershire home, and came to India with him and stayed till 1967,” said Janine, now 74. “Occasional cooking and taking walks around estates were mostly what we used to do. Once a week, usually on Wednesdays, we used to visit the club, where we watched films and chatted.”

Both their children — the son, an engineer with Royal Air Force, and the daughter, a nurse — were born at Darjeeling Planters’ Hospital.

The Rodericks said Indian tea, especially the Darjeeling variety, is still very popular. “Though youths in England are more into soft drinks and beer, but the appeal of the fragrant Darjeeling tea is still unabated,” Roderick said.

Their visit, Janine said, had another purpose. “My husband had seen Taj Mahal, but I have never been there,” Janine said. “This time, I have made it clear that unless he takes me to Agra, I will not leave for England.”

Source: The Telegraph

Terai tea team for star campaigners

Though a much healthier beverage than aerated drinks, the absence of a star cast in tea ads has taken its toll on the domestic brew market, said planters of the region.

At the 45th annual general meeting of the Terai Branch of the Indian Tea Association (TBITA), planters said the primary reason for depletion in tea share in the beverage market is due to the absence of celebrity endorsement and sports sponsorships.

Such promotions are common with aerated soft drink and mineral water companies, the planters said.

“Though apex agencies, like the Tea Board of India, have come up with some campaigns, these alone cannot save the tea industry from its present crisis,” said C. Bose, the chairman of the Terai association.

“So far, the stress was on international market, where the sole aim was to boost export,” the chairman said. “The domestic market can no longer be ignored, which needs aggressive campaigning to spread the message across the population, 60 per cent of which is below 24 years This would then increase the annual per capita domestic consumption, which is as low as 660 gm now.”

The annual per capita consumption of tea in countries like Pakistan is 1 kg, while it is 2 kg in the UK and Ireland.

Monojit Dasgupta, the secretary-general of the Indian Tea Association, who was present at the meeting, brought with him a few good tidings. “The tea board is designing a strategy for improvement of the brew belt during the 11th Plan period,” Dasgupta said. “Under the plan, priority will be given to domestic campaign for expansion of the market.”

Not the aerated soft drinks but mineral water brands are the principal contenders of the beverage.

“There has been an unprecedented rise in mineral water sale across the country which has brought down tea consumption,” Dasgupta said. “We are into experimentation and hope that by summer, ice-tea or tea in cold formats will be in market.”

According to him, they need to concentrate on CTC varieties instead of the orthodox tea. “We have already started planning strategies for aggressive marketing in different countries, which can be potential buyers,” he added.

At the meeting, the planters lined up several demands and recommendations, seeking government intervention, some of which are:

Introduction of incentive scheme for exporters of Indian tea

A 50 per-cent slash in the social cost borne by planters as per the recommendation of the inter-ministerial committee constituted by the Centre

Keep the industry outside the purview of any excise levy

Waive payment of salami for purchase or take-over of sick gardens

Devise schemes for diversification into other commercial crops

Declare North Dinajpur district as a “non-traditional area”

Consider provisions for self-employment for the unemployed residents of tea gardens

Source: The Telegraph