Government meet over closed tea gardens

The Centre, for the first time, has decided to explore the feasibility of reopening closed and abandoned tea gardens in the Dooars.

Following instructions from the Union commerce and industries ministry, the Tea Board of India has invited owners of closed tea estates, bankers, trade union leaders and Bengal commerce and industries officials to a meeting in Calcutta on May 11.

“Union minister of state for commerce and industries Jairam Ramesh will be present at the meeting, where the officials will go through the possibilities of reopening closed gardens of north Bengal,” Basudeb Banerjee, chairman, Tea Board of India, told The Telegraph. “We hope the planters, union members and government officials will help the Centre find a way to solve the problem.” At present, 14 gardens are closed in the Dooars.

Though the state has granted money to closed estates and tried to implement work schemes for the unemployed labourers, it has maintained that only the Centre can reopen them. State finance minister Asim Dasgupta, who visited Jalpaiguri on April 3, said: “We can cancel the lease of such estates, but only the Centre can acquire them.

Trade union members have agreed to help the governments resume work at the estates. “We have even suggested forming workers’ cooperatives to run the gardens as we don’t think that the owners will ever reopen them,” said Chitta Dey, convener, Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers. “We will propose it at the meeting.”

Representatives of planters’ associations, however, said they have not been invited to the meeting. “We have heard that the only agenda of the meeting is reopening of closed tea gardens. That is why the tea board has invited individual planters and owners of closed estates only,” said Monojit Dasgupta, the secretary-general of Indian Tea Association.

Source: The Telegraph