The North East Tea Association (NETA) has appealed to the government to ease the curfew hours for vehicles carrying tea leaves and permitting the movement of workers in factories beyond the stipulated time so that the tea industry does not suffer.
NETA advisor Bidyananda Barkakoty has written letters to all deputy commissioners of tea-producing districts in this regard.
The curfew on plying of vehicles has been imposed from 2 pm to 5 am effective from May 13, vide order May 12, 2021, issued by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA).
The letter pointed out that as per the order dated May 4, 2021, issued by the ASDMA, “Industrial units and tea gardens may function subject to observance of COVID appropriate behavior. Head of the unit/tea garden shall be responsible for ensuring social distancing, mask-wearing by workers and staff, sanitization of industrial premises, thermal scanning, etc.”
In this order, in regard to exemptions from Night Curfew were the “Manufacturing units of essential commodities” and “Production units or services, which require a continuous process.” Thus, the tea industry production was not affected.
“The May 12 order applies only in respect of urban areas and adjacent areas within 5 km radius from the periphery of Municipal Corporation / municipal boards/revenue towns, however, adversely affected production in bought leaf factories which fell within the five kms radius,” Barkakoty said.
Barkakoty said that as most of the tea gardens were in rural areas their functioning won’t be a problem.
“The few tea gardens which are within the 5 km radius of municipality areas have been advised to operate from 5 am to 1 pm,” he added.
“However, tea manufacturing is a continuous process and it is an essential food item. Because of the nature of the industry, the manufacturing of tea starts from the early morning and carries on to late at night. We hereby request you to allow movement of persons working in tea factories from workplace to home during curfew hours imposed in the May 12 order,” the letter said.
Barkakoty in the letter added that green leaf was a perishable commodity and it needed to go for processing within a certain period of time.
“Green leaf is carried to tea factories after harvesting in tea gardens. Therefore, we hereby request you to please grant permission of Green Leaf Carrying Vehicles to ply within the curfew hours – it will be enough if allowed up to 7 pm. It may be noted that though a majority of tea factories are in rural areas some tea factories are within the 5 km radius of municipality areas,” the letter further requested.
Exemption of odd and even vehicle restrictions for green leaf carrying vehicles was also requested.
Jorhat deputy commissioner Roshni A Korati said that a decision in this regard was yet to be taken.