THE CUP that cheers just got dearer. Come to think of it, one didn’t really have to be adept at tasseomancy (that’s divining the future by interpreting patterns in tea leaves) to figure out that the cost of a cuppa, too, would head northwards given the all-round increase in prices – and it has.
Following a call given by the Chai Thela Gumti Union, a hitherto unknown body, tea stall vendors in the City have decided to up the price of a ‘cut’ chai by one rupee from Rs 2 to Rs 3.
In a letter circulated to its members the Union cited rising costs of LPG, milk, tea leaves - and the moratorium on child labour - in support of the decision. However, many tea stall thelas (handcarts) charged patrons Rs 2 per cup on Wednesday “on account of Gyaras”, but made it clear that the new rates would become applicable starting Thursday.
According to an FAO report, India accounts for nearly 29 per cent of global tea production of which 20 per cent is consumed within the country itself. The overall effects of the hike would be many, but a few fallouts are immediately apparent.
It clearly portends ill for academic-minded but somnolent students who only seem to keep from nodding off by repeated, and generous, helpings of the enervating liquid at all-night tea joints run by the ubiquitous Chacha. And what of perennially lethargic bureaucracy that sheds its ennui only at the sonorous, and oh-so welcome, cry of ‘chai lao’.
The tea stall unionists have their reasons for hiking the price. And they aren’t too difficult to fathom, either. “Over the past five years everything has become costlier, but the price of a cup of tea has remained constant. We have to spend as much as Rs 500 to purchase an LPG cylinder on the black market. Sugar, milk, tea leaves, even labour after the government banned child workers, are more expensive,” points out General Secretary, Chai Thela Gumti Union, Om Singh Thakur.
The economics left thela owners with no choice but to raise the price ‘’by a rupee,” declared Thakur, who claims that his union enjoys the backing of 1,000 tea-stall owners.
His views are echoed by Dinesh, who mans a handcart tea stall near Palsikar Colony. “Though the daily sales ran up to Rs 500, I’d be left with only around Rs 75-100 after deducting expenses. Hopefully, with the new rates I’ll be able to take a little more money home.” Now that is something worth drinking to.