On the heels of Darjeeling District Magistrate S Ponnambalam calling on the owners of 10 tea gardens under the Darjeeling Organic Tea Estate Pvt Ltd (DOTEPL) to appear before him to explain the non-payment of wages, the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) today presented the “distressed Darjeeling tea industry” and said it was going through a financial crisis.
The DM asked President and Acting Director of Darjeeling Organic Tea Estate Pvt Ltd (DOTEPL) Rembert Biemond, and Managing Director Indroneel Guho to be at the DM’s office in Darjeeling on September 2 to explain why the lease determination process may not be launched for said tea gardens.
Observers, on the other hand, said the tea gardens still told “the same old story” of financial crisis whenever the region’s biggest festival was held at the corner of Durga Puja in the plains and Dashain in the plains. Hills.
“Whenever Dashain approaches and tea workers start preparing to celebrate the festival and expect legitimate claims including bonuses, senior tea industry officials sing the same old song of crisis. financial,” said a Hill-based observer who has witnessed numerous tea incidents. plantations, says.
Notably, Sandeep Mukherjee, Senior Adviser of the Darjeeling Tea Association, said in a press note, “The Darjeeling tea industry is going through a financial crisis, which has occurred due to the decline in the tea market. export, the decline in demand for tea, the rising cost of production and the climate impact on agricultural production in recent years.
“The industry was producing about 11 million kg about a decade ago, which has fallen to 6.7 million kg in 2021, despite which there is no commensurate increase in demand in national markets. and international.
In such a situation, the industry does not have the capacity to support its 55,000 permanent workers in the industry,” he added. Mr Mukherjee also blamed the influx of tea from Nepal into India which he said is causing “irreparable damage” to Darjeeling’s tea industry, both in terms of price and quality.
“An anti-dumping duty on Nepali tea should be imposed as the blending of orthodox tea imported from Nepal with Darjeeling tea is ongoing,” Mukherjee said, adding:
“The results of this dire situation are that Darjeeling Organic Tea Estate Private Ltd, the second largest producing group in Darjeeling, has come to a screeching halt since August 13, 2022, as wages and salaries could not be paid. Unless immediate corrective action is taken by the government concerned, more such plantations will be closed, further aggravating the current situation. According to the notice, issued by the DM of Darjeeling on August 26, for a hearing regarding non-payment of wages, Rs 3,50,82,290 is due for tea workers in the 10 tea gardens under DOTEPL.
Notably, the Director General of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), Anit Thapa, wrote to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on August 26 about the plight of workers associated with DOTEPL and asked the CM to terminate the lease of the land. given to the company.
Significantly, while Darjeeling Deputy Minister issued the notice immediately after Mr Thapa’s letter to Miss Banerjee, Darjeeling MP Raju Bista said: “It is good to see that the administration government of West Bengal is finally waking up to the hardships faced by tea garden workers.” “I want to ask the CM why has she slept for the past three months…” Mr Bista added.