Guwahati, Friday, September 28, 2012
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Gas shortage hits tea gardens
RON Duarah
 DIBRUGARH, Sept 27 – Many tea gardens in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts are reeling under a severe shortage of piped natural gas, and garden managers are finding it difficult to overcome the crisis. The worst-affected tea gardens include Lepetkata. Borborooah, Jamirah (all in the vicinity of DibruwArh) and those in the Panitola and Doomdooma areas. The ABITA zonal secretary here. S Ghosh said that this is the first time that gardens in upper Assam are facing an erratic gas supply for three months and more since these started using piped natural gas in the tea factories. The upper Assam tea gardens have shifted to piped natural gas for more than 40 years now.

With the gas crisis severely affecting tea production, especially at the peak tea producing season this year. Ghosh fears that tea gardens would have to suffer for no fault of theirs. Moreover, he also expressed his apprehension that the non-production of tea, especially in the run oil to the festive season, could trigger lahour unrest.

With the factories having to forcibly remain closed, another quarter that is suffering is the small tea grower. Tea factories are not buying green leaf and small tea growers are being forced to destroy their prime crops.

Piped natural gas to the tea gardens are provided by the Assam Gas Company Limited (AGCL) with natural gas being provided by the Oil India Limited (OIL). While AGCL sources sald they can only provide gas after getting this from OIL, a spokesman of the later said this year’s gas production is being affected due to sporadic agitation programmes by sundry public organisations in support of their demands.

The State Government, on its part, has failed to resolve the situation despite meetings between bureaucrats, 011. and AGCL officials. One such meeting was held here last week at the initiative of Industry Minister Pradvut Bordoloi. The minister had announced the formation of yet another bureaucratic committee to “look into the matter.” While these initiatives by Bordoloi apparently do not help anybody, tea managers are jittery about the developments. Three months of beak production loss is tremendous and nobody knows when the gas flow imbroglio will get resolved.

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