Your morning cup of Darjeeling tea may soon fall victim to the ongoing Gorkhaland stir.
Although plantations have been kept out of the purview of the indefinite bandh, production of one of the finest agricultural produces that carry the signature of India all over the world has been severely hit prompting calls of concern from worried importers.
Although the gardens are open, the agitators have refused to allow any movement of tea out of the 57-odd gardens in the Hills. The restriction is all the more important since what is called ‘post-second flush’ harvest is on in full swing and the produce is piling up. Experts fear the quality of tea will be affected if stored for a long period and owners say they will have to stop production if things don’t improve.
More important than the storage space is the fact that Gorkhaland agitators are not allowing tankers laden with fuel to reach the gardens. Most plantations in the Hills have their own captive power plants to run the factories.
“Since August 3, movement of tea from the gardens and factories has come to a halt. Vehicles cannot ply because of the bandh. Bulk of Darjeeling tea is exported to countries such as Japan, US, UK and Germany. The goings-on here are giving a wrong impression,” SS Bagaria, chairman of Darjeeling Tea Association, told HT.
According to the association estimates, Darjeeling tea industry has already taken a hit of about R15 crore and if the strike continues it would result in a loss of more than R2 crore per day. In Kolkata, price of tea is expected to rise by 10%.
To add to the tea industry’s woes, Gorkhaland supporters have forced some hydel projects in the Hills to shut down and there is a severe power crisis in the Hills. Gardens have been running their generators for the whole day, which has pushed up the demand for diesel. And due to the complete shutdown, no fuel trucks are allowed to ply in the Hills.
Exporters fear that foreign companies who are waiting are likely to cancel consignment for further delay and even a likely drop in quality.
“The Gorkhaland agitators have been considerate towards the tea industry because it is the mainstay of the region’s economy. But we are losing business since 70% of Darjeeling tea is exported,” said Sandip Chakraborty, president of the Darjeeling Tea Association.