Darjeeling Dooars, Terai tea gardens to lose over Rs.220 crore

August 11th, 2011 - 10:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 11 (IANS) Tea gardens in northern West Bengal’s Himalayan foothills (Dooars) and plains (Terai) region are set to lose over Rs.220 crore this year following a stalemate over workers’ wage settlement in 224 gardens. The agitation is led by a tribal group.

“We are apprehending losses amounting to over Rs.220 crore,” Arun Singh, managing director and CEO of Goodricke Group, told media persons here.

The Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, backed by the tribal group Adivasi Vikas Parishad, has started an embargo on tea movement since Friday after tripartite talks on workers’ wages ended in a deadlock.

The last wage agreement with the workers lapsed March 31. During the recent negotiations, the Consultative Committee of Planters Associations (CCPA) offered workers a Rs.24 raise over a three-year period while the unions demanded the present wages of Rs.67 be increased to Rs.90 per day.

The tea companies have already sought the state government’s intervention as this is the peak production season for rain tea.

“No work is possible in the tea gardens. We have approached the state government. But there has not been any headway,” said Luxmi Tea Company managing director Tapan Kumar Chowdhury.

Not only has production come to a halt in the major gardens of Dooars and Terai, there was no work in the 70 bought leaf factories also run by small growers.

The prices for rain tea have been on a downslide for the past few weeks.

The industry captains, who were holding a media meet under their umbrella body Consultative Committee of Planters Associations (CCPA), said selling price of tea has gone below the average price in over 50 percent of gardens in Dooars and Terai.

While the average price of Darjeeling tea was Rs.309 per kg this year, the same for the Dooars and Terai tea was Rs.104.

Singh said the gardens in the Dooars and Terai were not in a position to pay wages to the workers at par with their counterparts in the Darjeeling hills.

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