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22 Dec 2016

State push on tea cash

AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Siliguri, Dec. 21: The state government today wrote to the Reserve Bank of India, seeking necessary steps to implement the decisions taken at a meeting held last week with regard to the disbursement of wages among tea garden workers.
H.K. Dwivedi, the principal secretary of state finance department, wrote to Rekha Warrior, the regional director of RBI, mentioning that at the meeting held in Nabanna on December 16, it was decided that tea planters in north Bengal would be allowed to draw cash beyond the ceiling and pay wages among workers in cash.
"In areas where financing bank/local bank is able to provide funds at the tea estate, the existing system of payment through lead financing bank/local bank of the concerned tea estate will continue. However, in areas where banks are unable to provide funds at the tea estate due to absence of any banking services, the concerned district magistrate will get the funds routed through his/her bank account as per the modalities... Both system will continue till 31 January 2017 or till such time banks are able to provide ATMs/Micro ATMs/BCs etc in each garden," reads Dwivedi's letter.
Since November 9, tea planters have been finding it difficult to disburse wages, which are paid in cash to the workers. This happened because the Centre had imposed a cap on cash drawings. On November 21, the RBI allowed planters to make payments to workers for just two fortnights by withdrawing cash above the stipulated limit.
The planters made payments of two fortnights. Meanwhile, banks started opening the tea workers' accounts. However, it was found that accounts of all workers were yet to be opened and wages of at least one more fortnight became due. The banks refused to allow them to withdraw cash beyond the stipulated ceiling again.
A tea planter said although the government had written to the RBI, the central bank was yet to give the green light to banks to go ahead with the decision. "Unless there is a clear directive from the RBI, the banks will not act on the decisions taken at the meeting," he said.

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