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17 Jun 2017

Tea estate owners meet Hills MP to open gardens

TNN | Jun 17, 2017| KOLKATA: Tea estates have rarely been kept under the purview of indefinite strikes called by various political outfits in the Hills over the years. But, the present one, called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), is beginning to play havoc with the tea economy amid the most important weeks of the pricey second flush tea-plucking season in Darjeeling. Being at their wit's end for losing on the exports market and failing to meet order deliveries, around 40-odd owners of the 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling have contacted local MP S S Ahluwalia as well as the workers' unions to find a way to restart operations.
Since June 12 this week, there has been a 100% shutdown of tea estate operations in the Hills. Besides being the peak second flush quality season, this is an important cropping period for Darjeeling tea.
A two-member team from top producers' body Indian Tea Association (ITA) compri sing its secretary-general Ari jit Raha and industry veteran A N Singh of Goodricke met Ahluwalia in New Delhi to "inform the gravity of the situation and its after math". "We have appealed to the Darjeeling MP to talk to the GJM leaders and unions as soon as possible. Because, we will not be able to meet our ex port commitment," Raha told TOI.
Ahluwalia, who is also the Union minister of state for ag riculture and farmers' welfa re, has reportedly told the ITA officials that he is concerned about the current bandh and will take necessary steps. ITA is also in constant touch with the workers' union.
"It's unfortunate that tea garden workers have joined this indefinite bandh. This is spelling doom for Darjeeling tea and its workforce for this year. This will affect wage revision and bonuses for sure," said Singh, MD & CEO of Goodricke, the largest tea producer in Bengal. According to Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) chairman Binod Mohan, the bandh has already burnt a hole in producers' pocket.

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