Govt. deadline to owners of closed tea gardens

The Centre has set a deadline of August 31 for the owners of closed tea gardens in Jalpaiguri.

They have to either reopen the gardens or find prospective owners to run them by that date, failing which the Centre will take them over, said Union minister of state for commerce and industry Jairam Ramesh in Calcutta today.

The Centre enjoys that power under Sections 16 (D) and 16 (E) of the Tea Act.

Ramesh was there to discuss the issue with state commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen and finance minister Asim Dasgupta.

Already, there have been 20 offers from interested people claimed Dasgupta. Currently there are 13 closed gardens in the Dooars. A committee under the chairmanship of an additional secretary of the Union commerce ministry will decide on the prospective buyers. The reopened gardens will enjoy an exemption on cess and agricultural tax till 2009. However, till they reopen, workers of these gardens will be provided with free foodgrain, medicines, drinking water facilities in addition to an allowance of Rs 750 per month by the state government, said Dasgupta.

Earlier, the junior minister had visited IIT Kharagpur, 130km from Calcutta. He said the Centre has decided to take IIT help to develop tea technology.

Ramesh said IIT would set up a tea engineering research centre for which the tea and coffee boards were providing Rs 16 crore and Rs 3 crore respectively.

IIT Kharagpur is already researching on tea and has turned a 15-acre patch of barren land in Goali, 3km from Kharagpur, into a garden.

Source: The Telegraph