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Political gameplan of TMC and BJP fatal for tea industry

In his last complete budget proposal prior to next assembly election in state, West Bengal Finance Minister has earmarked Rs 500 crore for a scheme to build permanent house for tea workers. As expected, workers have highly welcomed the scheme.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Feb 11, 2020, 04.32 PM IST
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SILIGURI: The proposal to build house for tea workers has become an issue of tug of war in West Bengal between ruling party TMC and BJP. While both are keen on encashing the issue, tea entrepreneurs found this as ‘impractical’ and ‘fatal’ for industry.

Northern half of West Bengal with tea plantation in its hills and foothills hosts 54 assembly seats. Over 20 lakh tea workers family votes play vital role in electoral fate of at least 30 seats. Eventually, any schemes apparently aimed towards them, can bring sizable electorate benefit to whoever can encash it better.

In his last complete budget proposal prior to next assembly election in state, West Bengal Finance Minister has earmarked Rs 500 crore for a scheme to build permanent house for tea workers. As expected, workers have highly welcomed the scheme.

But, labeling TMC as insincere on this, BJP state General Secretary Rathin Bose said, “Now it is too late. They could announce it much earlier. The scheme involves complicated land right related issues and it is impossible for TMC to work it out before next election.”

On this, Raju Bista, BJP MP from Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat said, “Right of tea land first goes to the workers. If we are brought to power in 2021, we will issue permanent land possession authority to workers.”

Senior planters however found the scheme highly ‘ambiguous.’ “State needs residential land to build permanent houses. It is difficult within tea garden as those are all on lease land for tea only and cannot be converted into residential land easily. Neither lease holder can hand it to anyone else. We need to study the scheme more, ”said P. K. Bhattacharya, Secretary General, Tea Association of India.

Going deeper, veteran planter and senior members of Terai Indian Planters Association(TIPA) K. K. Mintri labelled the scheme as ‘Impractical.’ “State can think of taking back leased land. But that will initiate long term wide spread legal battle between planters and Government. That will ruin the labour intensive industry ,” he said. TIPA Chairman Mahendra Bansal also echoed the same.

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