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Lockdown | Work begins in some Assam tea gardens with full workforce

A few of Assam’s 803 tea estates have started working with a full workforce following a clearance from the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA).

A majority of the planters big and small are, however, wary of the interpretation of COVID-19 guidelines by the local authorities and complications that could arise from the arrival of people who have been stranded outside the State. A sizeable number of more than 7-8 lakh people who had been working in southern, western and northern India prior to the COVID-19 lockdown are from the tea growing belts.

ASDMA Chairperson Kumar Sanjay Krishna, who is also the Chief Secretary, had through a May 8 notification allowed all tea gardens and tea manufacturing units to operate with full capacity subject to maintenance of social distancing, hygiene and other guidelines of the Health Department.

 

“All our employees have started working,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, advisor to the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA).

Social distancing

“About 65% of the total workforce is engaged in plucking activity and each plucker is allotted two rows of tea bushes. The spacing between tea bushes is generally 105 cm, so the distance between two pluckers is more than 2 metres, which automatically fulfils the criterion of social distancing,” said Mr. Barkakoty, who has tea gardens in eastern Assam’s Golaghat district.

Further east, most planters are apprehensive about issues cropping up if they allow all employees to work at a time.

“We are waiting for directions from the district authorities, as there were issues in the implementation of the relaxation on farming by the Centre last month. Moreover, many migrants are coming in from outside could have an impact on the 10 lakh people involved in the industry,” said Nazrana Ahmed, chairperson of Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA).

Representatives of NETA, ATPA and Bharatiya Cha Parishad on Monday had a meeting with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industries of the State.

‘Tea mission’

Mr. Sonowal assured the planters that the State government would implement the “tea mission” announced in the 2020-21 Budget. The measures under this mission include a subsidy of ₹7 per kg on orthodox tea, withdrawal of agricultural income tax for three years and 3% interest subvention on all term loans and working capital loans.

The Chief Minister also took note of the restoration of the supply chain of Assam tea under the present circumstances.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 12:50:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/lockdown-work-begins-in-some-assam-tea-gardens-with-full-workforce/article31558879.ece

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