Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has ordered that a study be conducted to thoroughly understand the problems affecting the profitability of the Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation (TANTEA), said Nilgiris MP, A. Raja on Thursday.
Following a meeting with trade union leaders representing TANTEA workers in Udhagamandalam on Thursday, Mr. Raja said the government was financially supporting TANTEA which was registering losses for the last ten years. “This is akin to applying a band-aid to a very big injury,” Mr. Raja told reporters. “To formulate a permanent solution, the Chief Minister has ordered a scientific and commercial study that will look into strategies that can be implemented to make TANTEA profitable once again,” said Mr. Raja.
While the government tried to arrest the slide of TANTEA, it was also looking at ensuring the welfare of the workers employed at the estates and the factories. Mr. Raja and the State Forest Minister, K. Ramachandran, said the land on which the estates were functioning had been leased from the Forest Department on condition that the land be used to cultivate tea. “This is the basis of a conditional lease, that it be used for the purpose for which the lease was granted,” he said, adding that the forest department had asked for the land to be returned under the AIADMK government as there was no cultivation being undertaken.
“The question of surrender doesn’t arise… when we return to profitability, the Forest Minister has assured that there will be a higher requirement of labor and then there will be full cultivation,” said Mr. Raja. He said that cultivation had been restricted and was being continued with the limited amount of labour available, and that new strategies will be formulated to make this cultivation profitable before it was expanded once again.
He said that he had spoken to leaders of various trade unions and had assuaged their concerns that people will be evicted from their homes and that workers will lose livelihoods.
Also present at the meeting were Nilgiris collector, S. P. Amrith, Field Director of MTR, D. Venkatesh (in-charge) Managing Director of TANTEA, Syed Muzammil Abbas, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and other top officials from the Nilgiris district administration.
Mr. Raja had said that the government was also looking at ensuring that retired TANTEA staff have adequate housing. On Tuesday, Mr. Raja, along with MSME minister, T. M. Anbarasan visited proposed sites across Nilgiris where housing can be arranged for retired TANTEA employees with funding from the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitation Development Board.