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Many tea gardens to reopen in Bengal

At least five of the 14 closed gardens are all set to reopen within the next two months, reports Rakeeb Hossain and Jaidev Majumdar.
None | By Rakeeb Hossain and Jaidev Majumdar, Kolkata
UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2007 08:53 PM IST

There’s finally some good news for the workers of closed tea gardens in Dooars. At least five of the 14 closed gardens are all set to reopen within the next two months.

The fate of another six though remained undecided, but efforts would be made for them to get new buyers while the central government would be coming out with a special package for revival of closed tea gardens within the next 45 days.

Union minister of state for Commerce and Industries, Jairam Ramesh, announced this after a meeting with the Tea Board officials, the tea garden owners, bankers’, trade union representatives and state labour minister and state government officials in the city on Friday.

“We are trying to reopen all the 33 closed tea gardens across India and we have already some success in Kerala where 10 out of 17 closed gardens are set to reopen within the end of this month.

And I have tried to replicate this model in Bengal also and I can tell you today that out of the 14 closed tea gardens in this state, the owners of five tea gardens have agreed to reopen their gardens with the first one the Surendranagar Tea Estate reopening on May 17.

I will be personally present on ten occasion. Moreover, the owners of Kalchini and Raimatong—the Buxa Dooars Tea company, has expressed willingness to reopen their gardens on July 15. And the owners of Samsing and Bamondanga Tea Estates have given us firm commitments they will reopen their gardens by June 29,” said Ramesh.

He said that out of the 14, matters relating to Ramjhora and Kathalgudi where not discussed as the state government has already taken over the lands of these two tea gardens while problems of Dheklapara tea garden could not be discussed as the owner didn’t turn up for the meeting.

The minister said that the owners of Chamurchi, Raipur, Bharnobari, Shikarpur and Bhandarpur were found not to be interested in running their gardens and some them have even found new buyers for their gardens.

Banks have come forward and have expressed willingness to help the unwilling tea garden owners to find new buyers. The case if Red Bank tea estate was not discussed as it is already under liquidation.

Of these the Raipur tea estate might be opened by the end of July as it has already found an interested buyer.

“The major reason highlighted for the closer of tea gardens were loss of productivity. But my own assessment is that low productivity is only the tip of the iceberg. Owners insensitivity and mismanagement are tow the major reasons why these gardens have closed down.

Or how else can you explain that only 33 out of 1600 tea gardens in India are closed and most of its owners re not willing to run it,” said Ramesh.

He said that DM Jalpaiguri has been instructed to conduct an enquiry on the past fund utilisations at the Shikarpur-Bhandarpur tea estate and find out whether any fund was diverted or misused after it was felt by all concerned quarters that the owner has not been serious in running the garden.

For Surendranagar to, Ramesh has requested the state government to conduct an enquiry on whether the owners have fulfilled all the statutory financial obligations or not within the next one month.

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