Little chance of brew with ‘G’ mark

Darjeeling, Jan. 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s demand that every packet of Darjeeling Tea should have “Gorkhaland” printed on it is likely to have little effect as 60 per cent of the brew is exported.

“The export product is sent as loose tea in chests. What the packaging people do after it reaches them is beyond our control,” said a producer.

Two of the major companies that package Darjeeling Tea for domestic markets are Hindustan Lever and Tata Tea, a source said. “It is unlikely that they will have the word Gorkhaland printed on the packets as their domestic business will not be affected by what is sold in the Darjeeling area,” he said.

Most hill gardens do not have packaging units. “Those that do have, outsource the work to people in Calcutta. The packets that are sold in Darjeeling amount to hardly anything,” said a tea trader.

Those who are likely to be directly affected are a handful of local traders who buy loose tea from the gardens and pack them in aluminium foils with the name of the estate and the shop. “The amount of tea that is sold from these outlets is insignificant for the gardens but is a lot to that particular local trader,” said another trader.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “At the end of it, we want all packets to bear the word Gorkhaland.”

The hill party’s demand that it would collect all revenues paid by gardens to the Centre and the state seems to be a non-starter too. “The only tax that is paid by the gardens is the central excise duty on tea at the rate of 12 paise for every kilogram. If the Morcha prevents the paying of this tax, the consignments will not be allowed to go for auctions,” said a planter. “Ultimately, the gardens will suffer for non-payment of tax, whether it is charged by the state or Centre.”

Basudeb Banerjee, the chairman of Tea Board, refused comment: “These are political demands and I cannot say anything.”