Karimganj: Lack of adequate infrastructure and crippling power supply were posing serious threat to the tea industry of Barak Valley, Chairman of Barak Valley Tea Association of India RK Sinha said.
Condition of roads connecting the gardens are pathetic while crippling power cuts and non-availability of power for long period during peak hours were impeding normal production of the tea gardens, Sinha said.
Silchar?Dwarband?Hailakandi road as well as Silchar? Karimganj?Patharkandi road were particularly in bad shape and the deplorable condition hampers transportation of essential inputs for the gardens and transportation of tea to auction centres, he said.
Bridges over river Barak and Badarpurghat require immediate attention while there was urgent need to expedite the completion of East?West Corridor and Silchar?Lumding BG for easy connectivity, Sinha added.
Tea gardens have been compelled to run operations on captive generator sets which have led to hiked cost of production.
He urged the Assam Power Distribution Company Limited to complete the transmission lines from Tripura to ensure steady power supply for the tea estates besides replacing or upgrading the old substations.
Frequent increase of power tariffs adversely affects cost of production and Sinha appealed to the authorities concerned to exempt the tea industry from payment of electricity duty and also waive minimum fixed charges during the lean season.
Sinha said that procurement of fertiliser was also a cause of worry for the planters as they face difficulties in obtaining required quota and are forced to buy from the open market at high prices.
This problem can be eased considerably if the government continues to supply the required quantity of fertiliser at subsidised rate, he added.
Scarcity of quality coal has also affected normal production of tea and urged for supply of quality coal at reasonable price, Sinha pointed out. High rate of absenteeism among workers has become a major irritant for the tea industry with workers being lured away by MGNREGA schemes without discharging their mandatory duties in the gardens.
He warned that if the trend of absenteeism continued, planters would have no option but to go for mechanisation and appealed to union leaders to prevail over the errant workers to desist from such practice in the overall interest of the industry.
The district administration on its part should offer MGNREGA work to people of BPL only after getting NOC from the garden management.
The Chairman rued the sudden withdrawal of NRHM from some tea gardens which has deprived the tea garden population of medical facilities and urged the Centre and the district authorities concerned to reintroduce the scheme in all tea garden hospitals.
In order to help the management implement PLA (Plantation Labour Act), the government should also restore subsidy cum loan scheme for the construction of labour houses.
Some gardens, facing acute financial crisis, could not deposit PF dues and have turned defaulters and these gardens should be given time to clear their dues in installments, Sinha added.