Even After Being a Continuous Process of Plantation and Manufacturing Tea Industry Not Exempted from Lockdown
GUWAHATI: In the 21-day lockdown ordered by PM Narendra Modi to combat COVID-19, the ministry of home affairs has exempted a few services and businesses.
As per point number 5 of the order no. 40-3/2020 dated 24th March of the ministry, industrial establishments are to remain closed. The exceptions to this closure are:
a. Manufacturing units of essential commodities.
b. Production units, which require continuous process, after obtaining required permission from the state government.
Despite this order, the tea industry of Assam has not been exempted from the lockdown.
Given the fragile and perishable nature of the tea plants, the Assam Valley Branch of Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations had requested the Labour Commisssioner to exempt specific operations of the industry.
The application requested that tea gardens be allowed to work for the protection of the plants by spraying of pest repellents and pest killers as there might be huge and permanent damage to the plants during such a long closure period.
Further, irrigation of plants to be continued, given scanty rainfall during the period.
Dipanjol Deka, Secretary of Tea Association of India, speaking to G Plus informed, “The Deputy Commissioner of some districts have allowed us to keep five workers per day per garden for the required work. However, all district authorities have not yet complied to our request. “
“Given that the tea plantation and manufacturing business is a continuous process, the state government should have exempted us from the lockdown,” he added.
Nazrana Ahmed, President of Assam Tea Planters’ Association said, “The tea industry was already in a crisis in the last two years, and from the beginning of this year there has been a drop of sale prices in the Gauhati Tea Auction by an average of Rs. 80 to Rs. 90 per kg.
Further, the tea industry is dealing with a very fragile and perishable commodity dependent on plant physiology and are infected by pests. The plucking is done on a round of every six to seven days. So during lock down these plants would grow about a foot long and has to be skiffed as these cannot be used for the manufacture of tea. We have to wait for regeneration of the bushes again. So a lock down of five days actually means about a month long lock down for the tea industry”
As such given the three-week long lockdown the losses to be incurred by the industry could be highly extensive.