With an eye on the panchayat elections ahead, the BJP government in the State announced a slew of benefits for the small tea growers including land documents for those who did not have them.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in a meeting held at Assam Agricultural University auditorium on Tuesday announced that all small tea growers who did not have land documents (pattas) would be given land papers at the cost of Rs 1000 per bigha upto 30 bighas.
Addressing the meeting of small tea growers in which the government launched the Cess Utilization (Amendment) Policy for development and welfare of small tea growers, Sonowal said that they should not be deprived of bank loans and other benefits for want of land pattas.
State Agriculture Minister Atul Bora who was also present proposed that the first batch of land pattas would be given away by the chief minister at a session of All Assam Small Tea Growers Association to be held on April 8 at Golaghat.
The move was hailed by the gathering comprising mostly of small tea growers who have been demanding land pattas so that they could avail loans, for a long time. Under the Cess Utilization Amendment policy, 2017 for development and welfare of small tea growers aid was given to the tune of Rs 5000 per bigha for expansion and planting of saplings. In the first phase 1188 beneficiaries were declared and Sonowal in a token gesture handed over cheques ranging in amount from Rs 10000 to 65000 to five beneficiaries from Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Udalguri.
State Industries Minister Chandra Mohan Patowari who also attended the meeting said that in the first phase Rs 3 crore had been expended for 1188 beneficiaries and more would be allotted. He informed that the growers could apply online after a week and the money would be paid into their accounts.
He further said that a Tea Park would be opened in Guwahati soon so that growers could display different products. He exhorted the growers to go for organic which fetched a price of more than Rs 600 per kg instead of the Rs 100 which they were getting now.
Patowari responding to AAU vice chancellor K M Bujarbaruah’s request that the small tea growers advisory programme, a technical training programme for small tea growers discontinued by the Tea Board be given to the University again, was acceded to by the minister.
The small tea growers were also promised that they would be allowed to set up mini and micro factories.
Jorhat MP Kamakhya Prasad Tara calling for a separate tea policy sounded a word of caution regarding Assam tea and its global competitiveness which would be negatively affected if quality and other parameters were not adhered to. He also raised the question of the status of tea workers who he said should consider as industry workers instead of only tea workers. He also called for mechanization where required due to shortage of tea laborers.