Sunday, August 30, 2009


Small tea growers are now an economic force for the state of Assam. This fact should be recognized by the state ministry now. Around 65,000 small tea growers are involved currently in tea production in the state. It is a matter of regret that most of the grower does not have land patta even now. The small tea gardens are now the backbone of economic rejuvenation. Tea industry kept local population away from the industry for long years. The fault, of course, was partly due to hesitation of the local population also. They never wanted to be involved in tea growing activities like south India and Chinese population in the past. However economic consideration and spread of education brought in entrepreneur- ship during the last part of twentyeth century. The twenty-first century saw large numbers Assamese youth participating in plantation and production of Tea. It has given money power to local population for the first time. These activities need to be encouraged. The question arises why land patta are not been given to small growers?

According to us land holding should be regularized. This would not only provide legitimacy to entrepreneurs but Government would actually know what the actual production of tea in the state is. This would help planning in economic and budgetary activities in future. This would also ensure better control to the Directorate of Tea for developmental planning. It is a matter of shame that State has failed to legalize the tea growing business where mostly son of the soils are involved. It is a well-known fact that without land pattas none would be able to avail loans from banks. Small growers as such would not be able to avail the benefit of several schemes of Tea Board in absence of possession certificate. We are aware there are some problems in granting land patta. But the matter should be addressed before it is too late. There was a time when green teas were stolen from garden to garden and were resold to factories through a n illicit agency system. The Government needs to look into this pitfall too.

Now a day’s small tea growing business has given money power to local Assamese youngstars for the first time. They should be encouraged so that in a given time they can diversify to production and marketing of the product. The marketing of tea is complex process. It needs business acumen, finance and technical expertise. If small growers are supported today it would help building up their confidence to embark upon the marketing ventures. I had stated earlier that gone are those days when people used to grow tea and relaxed. It automatically got sold. Time has changed. There is intense competition from ready to drink segments. Unless local youth are given a fair chance to learn the tricks of the trade slowly in the home ground small gardens would get sold to unwarranted businessmen. Local population would once again miss the opportunity to become creator of wealth. We should not forget that in later part of 19th century Assamese population missed the bus when they refused to become part of tea growing system on the sentimental ground of forsaking personal independence.

Presently Assam produces around 480 million kg tea. Out this amount around 30% tea comes from small tea grower. This is not a small contribution. This segment of small grower should be taken into confidence. Some of the small tea growers are threatening to start a movement. The Government Assam should nip this matter in bud itself. The imposition of cess on small grower is not illegal. Government surely can impose tax. The small grower has taken the matter to court. Since the matter is sub-judice now, it would not be proper to comment for us. But if past experience is considered the small grower may not have a cause to cheers. Rather small growers need to bargain with the Government to fix up the selling price of the green tea with built up incidence of cess and land revenue. In today’s economic scenario it is the quality of tea produce would determine the price and not the quantity. Our neighboring state of arunachal has realized the fact faster than Assam ’s small growers. This is despite the fact that small tea gardens of Arunachal are not very old. According to my belief the small tea growers should try to develop their own niche while producing green tea leaves. They can concentrate on organics tea manufacturing which commands a much higher value, even in today's bad market condition.

Notwithstanding the power of Sovereign to impose taxes and rates it needs to be mentioned that neighboring states like Bengal have withdrawn cess on green leaf. It is not necessary that Assam should do what others have done. Yet, since Assam has improved on their finance by better administration and by better realization it might provide some concession to the industry which always provided the government in power the economic , political and social support as a part of democratic process. Let tea industry flourish and bring peace and prosperity to the state. People would bless the government. Tea industry is no longer dominated by its producers only. It is the workers who dominates the political clouts. To ignore their cause would be suicidal for party in power both socially and economically even if it can ignore political angle.


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