GUWAHATI, Sept 12 - Acknowledging the challenges the tea sector in Assam is facing in the wake of growing competition in international market, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal today informed the Assembly that the State government would approach the Ministry of Commerce for strengthening and value addition of the Assam tea sector.Taking part in the ‘Speaker’s Initiative’ on socio-financial uplift and preservation and promotion of culture of the tea community of Assam and revival and development of the tea trade, Sonowal informed the House that the Union Ministry’s help would also be sought for upgradation of Tocklai Tea Research Institute and obtaining other value added byproducts from tea sector.
Acknowledging the contributions of the tea communities in overall development of the State, the Chief Minister stated that special initiative would be taken to address long pending grievances of tea community people, including the present and ex-tea garden labourers.
“More than 40 lakh people directly or indirectly depend on the tea sector in the State. A decent living standard, education for children, employment and health for the people belonging to tea community would be dealt on a top priority,” Sonowal said.
Further stressing the quality enhancement of Assam Tea, he said the stature and monopoly enjoyed by Assam Tea in global market has received a setback of late and the competition from African, Chinese and Sri Lankan tea demands special efforts from the Assam Tea to bounce back.
“The points raised by members of the House in this discussion would be considered while planning the revival of Assam Tea,” he stated.
The Speaker’s Initiative is a new device introduced by present Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami to discuss the issues of relevance at length and arrive at possible solutions. The government will submit a report on the topic of discussion in next three months.
Earlier taking part in the discussion, Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia said that several important issues of tea garden people need a serious intervention on the ground as well as policy-making levels. Citing from the National Health Survey, he said that only 57 per cent hospitals in the State gardens are functional.
“As per the Plantation Labour Act children above 14 years can work in the gardens whereas the United Nations considers persons up to 18 years children. In gardens, the parents engage even the minor in work to augment family income. Hazards like unsafe use of pesticide sprayers, high instances of anaemia due to high salt consumption, lack of schools, absence of higher education still remain larger concerns for Assam,” he added.