The Tea Board has mooted a proposal with the Commerce Ministry to amend the relevant provisions of the Tea Act 1953 to do away with the requirement of mandatory planting permission and registration as required under Sections 12 and 14 of the Act for tea growers having less than 10.12 hectares of tea area.
Sections 12 and 14 of the Tea Act 1953 require the Tea Board to issue planting permission to tea estates with tea area of more than 10.12 hectares based on specific documents produced by the estate owners in support of land ownership, survey maps and soil suitability.
The same is also applicable to small tea growers having much lesser tea areas. However, it has been found that the majority of small tea growers neither have the valid documents to support the ownership of lands they use for producing tea nor do they care to inform the Tea Board, either for obtaining planting permission or the mandatory registration. Sections 12 and 14 of the Tea Act have thus become irrelevant to them.
There is another point. The planting permission/registration clause was incorporated in the Tea Act 1953 in fulfilment of requirements under the International Tea Agreement in force at the time of the framing of the Act.
The objective of the ITA being to regulate tea production to avoid probable overproduction in the global market, each tea producing country that was signatory to the agreement was allotted a quota depending on the area under tea and volumes of production and exports. ITA ceased to exist from 1956 but the Tea Board continues with the planting permission requirement for all tea growers, big and small.
Meanwhile, there is a move to issue identity cards to small tea growers. But the Parliamentary Committee on Plantation also looking into tea sector, in a recent report, has observed that the identity cards could not solve the fundamental problem thrown up by a lack of documentary evidence as to the legal ownership of land of small growers. The committee has, therefore, asked the Tea Board and the Commerce Ministry to take up with the respective State Governments the issue and come out with a solution.