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No real problem, a created crisis

Rajah (Swaraj Kumar) Banerjee, owner of the internationally famous Makaibari tea garden in Darjeeling, speaks about his solutions for the problems plaguing the Dooars tea industry.

kolkata Updated: Apr 01, 2011 17:54 IST

Rajah (Swaraj Kumar) Banerjee, owner of the internationally famous Makaibari tea garden in Darjeeling, speaks about his solutions for the problems plaguing the Dooars tea industry.

I don’t think there is any real problem with the Dooars tea gardens. The crisis has been created and though there are challenges, they can be overcome.

I really cannot understand why any tea garden should close down in the Dooars. In the Hills, we have to work on the marginal topsoil, which is around of one or one-and-a-half inches thick. Anywhere in the Dooars, you will get five feet to 20 feet of topsoil. It is very rich. What I did at Makaibari in five years could have been done in a year in the Dooars. Compared to the Dooars, Darjeeling is a cottage tea industry.

We planters have a saying that healthy society leads to healthy soil. When you have a healthy soil condition, then why do you have an unhealthy society in the Dooars? Why are there closures? This is an aberration.

The British set up tea industry in the sub-continent 150 years ago. They left 64 years ago but the Dooars tea gardens could not shake off the legacy of colonial, archaic and hierarchical management. In an era where internet is available even in villages, dissemination of information is no more an exclusive tool of the management. The colonial system is completely obsolete. A new set of parameters is required.

The era of ownership is over. This is the era of partnership. We should initiate a new sustainable management system. Let the community be involved. Let the workers be stakeholders.

The use of alternative energy and organic inputs are of foremost importance. The cow is can save an entire community. The owner of a cow can make a grassroots entrepreneur. He can use manure as organic fertiliser, sell cow milk, cow urine can be turned to organic insecticide and cow dung into biogas.

Educated unemployed youth should be motivated to work in tea gardens. Poor people are not stupid. Then why should they listen to anyone talking rubbish? The Dalgaon massacre in 2003 showed the outburst of these educated youths. But unfortunately, Marxist rulers are blinded by their arrogance.

I am into collaboration in Kathalguri tea garden, which was reopened in June last year. At present, I am acting as a consultant. What I did in Makaibari will be carried out in Kathalguri.

(As told to Surbek Biswas)