Agri Business

Tea Board invites bids for Duncans’ gardens

Abhishek Law New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 22, 2016

The Tea Board of India has invited bids to run six tea estates – Birpara, Garganda, Lankapara, Tulsipara, Huntapara and Dumchipara – that it had acquired from the Kolkata-based Duncans Industries.

All the six gardens are located in West Bengal.

The seventh tea estate of Demdima has already been put on the blocks by the Tea Board. It has received a “number of offers” and these are now being reviewed.

In January this year, the Tea Board took over these seven gardens out of 12 following which Duncans moved court seeking a stay on the acquisition. Earlier this month, the petition was dismissed with the Calcutta High Court justifying the Centre’s takeover bid.

The fate of three more estates (Kilcott, Nagasuree and Bagracott) and two project gardens (Madarihat and Terai Land) is undecided. According to local reports, all 12 gardens are virtually closed without any notification.

Angry locals recently wrested control of the 250-hectare Madarihat project, where Duncan had acquired farming rights in compromise of the Land Ceiling Act, with the promise of jobs to erstwhile landholder.

Notice of auction

The notice, issued on Monday, invited ‘Expression of Interest’ (EoI) for taking over management from interested tea companies-firms, cooperative societies to “run the gardens in a successful manner as per the provisions of various acts and rules applicable to the tea plantations”.

The last date for submission of bids is April 12 and all responses would be opened on the same day. The Board will also host a bidders’ meeting on March 28.

The Tea Board maintained that Duncans have failed to comply with the obligations under the Tea Act,1953 and also the relevant provisions in terms of timely payment of workers dues regarding Provident Fund, Gratuity, ration and other fringe benefits/obligatory dues, etc. The notice further adds that the company had also defaulted on electricity bills and medical facilities are being provided ion the gardens by the State government, “as a stop gap arrangement”.

“In view of the above facts, Tea Board is desirous of finding out a new entrepreneur who can run the estate as per provisions of the Tea Act, 1953, and the Plantation Labour Act, 1951,” it adds.

Past dues

Interestingly, the Tea Board maintained that the new owner will not have to clear the dues; and will have control over the garden initially for five years. The tenure can be extended later.

The notice also mentions that a monitoring committee with representatives of the Tea Board, State government and the previous owner (Duncans) will be formed. This committee will “regularly inspect the tea estates” and submit reports to the Centre.

Moreover, the new investor will not be able to retrench any worker “in a non-managerial position” without consulting the monitoring committee. If he has to leave the garden, he has to give a two-month notice to the committee.

Published on March 22, 2016
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