While the tea industry is yet to be clear as to how the benefits of the Rs 1,000 crore special package for the tea estate workers of Assam and West Bengal will be channelised, the tea growers are confident that the package will improve and strengthen the alignment with the sustainable development goals of the industry.
The Indian Tea Association (ITA) said that in addition to the existing National Health Mission the allocation of Rs 64,180 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana and the allocation aggregating Rs 59,000 crore for developing 1,975 km of road infrastructure in Assam and West Bengal will go a long way in giving the tea industry a boost.
The increase in budget estimates against the Tea Board schemes from Rs 175 crore to Rs 375 crore will facilitate timely disbursement of subsidies. The ITA has been proactively engaged with the finance and the commerce ministry in enhancing the allocation of funds.
However, the association laments the fact that pending issues like re-plantations in the gardens and export subsidies find no mention in the budget. The tea plantation sector is already under acute financial stress due to the increased cost of production. India has 1,585 tea gardens spread across 13 states with more than 12 lakh workers working on more than 6.36 lakh hectares.
Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said the Rs 1,000 crore special package for tea garden workers is nothing but an election stunt. “It is a trifle compared to the state’s Rs 500 crore Cha Sundari scheme meant to provide accommodation for the odd 3.5 lakh workers of 283 tea gardens in the state. While the Centre’s scheme translates to a benefit of around Rs 8,300 per worker, the state’s scheme translates to a benefit of Rs 14,285 per worker,” Roy said.
The ITA, however, said, since most of the tea gardens in Assam and West Bengal are located in remote far-flung places those gardens suffer from several transportation bottlenecks. The allocation of Rs 34,000 crore for road infrastructure development in Assam and Rs 25,000 crores in West Bengal is expected to speed up the development of roads and infrastructure thereby facilitating faster communication from tea gardens to destination points.
Both Assam and West Bengal will soon be going to the polls.