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3 Jul 2017

Gorkhaland stir in 19th day, Darjeeling tea industry takes Rs 150-crore hit

Gorkhaland newsPramod Giri, HT, Siliguri, 3 July 2017: The indefinite shutdown called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) in the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal for a separate state has already cost the local tea industry Rs 150 crore.

Darjeeling tea, one of the finest in the world, has a global market but its “second-flush” season, which accounts for 40% of its annual revenue, has been crippled by the revived stir for a separate state of Gorkhaland in Bengal’s northern hills.

“The industry has already incurred a direct loss estimated at more than Rs 150 crore being 40% of the annual revenue,” Darjeeling Tea Association chairman Binod Mohan said on Sunday.

The strike, which has seen violence and entered its 19th day on Monday, has hit normal life in the picturesque Himalayan region. Schools, markets and offices are shut and most vehicles are off the roads.

Work has come to a standstill at all the 87 tea gardens in the Darjeeling hills. These gardens employ 55,000 workers and around 500,000 people directly or indirectly depend on the tea industry for a living.

Second flush teas are normally harvested in June and are full-bodied with strong flavours.

Workers were staying away from the gardens as a result there was no plucking or processing of tea leaves, Mohan said.

“This damage will have a cascading effect taking several years to reverse and will cause the already struggling industry to suffer huge financial losses,” he said.

According to DTA’s principal adviser Sandeep Mukherjee, Darjeeling tea is the first GI product from India and the flag-bearer of the Indian tea industry.

“The industry would not be able to meet its future financial commitments… Sooner the normalcy is restored, it would help the industry to work smoothly during the rest of the year,” he said.

Not just the industry but workers, too, were facing a difficult time as they would not be paid for the days the strike continues, he said, warning that some tea estates could be forced to close down.

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