The North Bengal Tea Auction Centre in Jalpaiguri is set to enjoy a waiver on central sales tax.

This means buyers at this auction centre will get a three per cent waiver for the next two years. The waiver, which has come into effect from April 1, is likely to give Jalpaiguri an edge over Siliguri and Calcutta.

During his visit to Jalpaiguri on April 3, Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta announced the waiver. “I have already signed the necessary papers, and it should be effective very soon,” he had then said.

Kamal Bhattacharjee, the executive officer of the Jalpaiguri centre, today said they had been banking on the minister’s assurance. “Finally on May 15, the state government declared through a gazette notification that buyers purchasing tea through this centre would get the benefit of a three per cent central sale tax waiver which will continue till March 31, 2009.”

The benefit, he claimed, has already started drawing buyers to this centre set up in February 2005 amid much scepticism that it would not be able to survive competition from the 30-year-old Siliguri centre.

“The Jalpaiguri centre was reeling from a crisis resulting from an abysmally low inflow of tea. However, with the notification coming into force, we have recorded 100 per cent sale of tea put on auction in the past two sessions,” said Bhattacharjee.

N.K. Basu, the secretary of the auction committee in Jalpaiguri, admitted that the waiver has come as a major boost. “We are optimistic that more tea producers will decide to sell their brew through our centre. Earlier sellers refused to use our centres because there were no buyers,” he said.

However, the members of the Siliguri tea auction committee are not happy. “We will take up the issue with the finance minister. We are being deprived,” one of them said. Siliguri is considered an “adult” centre, which had had its share of waiver when it was set up in 1975.

Currently, 150 sellers, 58 buyers and eight brokers are registered in Jalpaiguri. This is much lower than the Siliguri centre, which has 327 sellers, 425 buyers and 10 brokers.

Source: The Telegraph