The small tea growers of Assam including the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) region on Friday expressed their inability to pay Rs 244 per day to the unorganized labourers working in their gardens and demanded hike in rates of green leaves.
The small tea growers have opposed the regulation of the Government on payment to daily wage labourers especially in unorganized sector but passed their pitch for controlling minimum support price to the workers.
A joint meeting of the All Assam Small Tea Growers Council (AASTGC) and All Bodoland Small Tea Growers’ Association (ABSTGA) at the conference hall of the District Industries and Commerce Centre, Kokrajhar on Friday with Jousrang Boro, president of ABSTGA in the chair.
Around one hundred small tea growers across the State including the BTAD region participated in the meeting where some vital issues of the tea growers including their common problems were discussed.
Later, talking to reporters, the president of the ABSTGA, Jousrang Boro said, “The small tea growers have been facing many problems since long which include lack of control over rate on green leaves.”
Boro said the Government has instructed all the small tea growers to pay Rs 244 per day to the workers which include logistic support.
The State Government has fixed Rs 351 as the daily wage include medical and other benefits to organized garden labourers, he said adding that it was not possible for small tea growers to pay Rs 244 per day to the tea garden workers.
Boro also said they had to sell the green leaves at a rate of Rs 18-22 per kg to the factories or big tea companies. The rate of green leaves has not been changed for the last 30 years hence they have to sell the green leaves ranging from Rs 15 to 18 and Rs 22 per kg while the rate of other costs including fertilizer and other required pesticides and maintenance cost has gone up, he said.
He also said that they had no objection to pay Rs 244 per day to the tea garden workers if the Government fixes the rate of green leaves at Rs 30-35 per kg.
Boro said on many occasions, the small tea growers had to cut off the trees during rainy season.
Besides, the production depends on the weather condition and sometimes, they are to approach the big factories for selling the green leaves which are often found reluctant to buy the leaves in minimal normal rate.
He also reiterated that the middlemen had been playing a role between the small tea growers and company to fix the rate and therefore, it is urgently necessary to control the rate.
The general secretary of AASTGC, Diganta Phukan, said there had been district monitoring committees to look after the fixation of rate and other issues but the committees have been mum on their problems.
Phukan said, “The State Government should take initiative to control the rate and the auction should be made directly between the tea growers and buyers without involvement of middlemen.” He added that the prices had been rising but the rate of green leaves of small tea growers has not been increased.