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BJP MPs oppose Centre’s attempt to keep Bengal tea plantations running; Darjeeling Tea suffering

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata | Updated on April 06, 2020 Published on April 06, 2020

The Centre is keen that the tea plantation sector, along with the rest of the agri-sector, operates with due precautions in place. But party MPs in West Bengal are not so keen.

On April 3, the Union Home Ministry issued an addendum to its previous order on measures to be taken to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. It pointed out that the tea industry, including plantations, are allowed to work with 50 per cent workers and set precautions in place.

The addendum was issued in view of growing fears that the plantation sector will miss the first-flush (March) production. The concern was maximum for plantations in Darjeeling as first-flush is its most premium tea and is almost entirely exported.

However, the addendum failed to bring cheer to the industry as corporate executive-turned-BJP MP from Darjeeling, Raju Bista, wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on April 4 opposing exemptions to the industry.

In his letter, Bista referred to West Bengal as “one of the least prepared States” for combating Covid-19, the recent return of the migrants in garden areas, and the recent death of a Covid-19 patient in Darjeeling who “infected 10 others”, as part of the worries. He also cited the prospect of spread of Covid-19 from factory operations in tea gardens.

Bista is not alone. John Barla, a plantation union leader and MP from Alipurduar in North Bengal, also raised similar concerns. North Bengal accounts for nearly a fourth of the country’s tea production.

The bigger part of the North Bengal production comes from lakhs of small growers, who were forced to stop plantation activity due to closure of bought-leaf-factories. Barla is a prominent face opposing the resumption of work in the plantation sector in the region.

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Published on April 06, 2020
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