Closure of tea estates likely due to Darjeeling crisis

Kolkata: Amid the ongoing agitation in the Bengal hills, the Darjeeling tea planters on Thursday said the present crisis could lead to closure of several tea estates, which will be difficult to revive.
The tea planters have already been facing cancellation of exports orders and are apprehensive that they may not be able to meet the financial commitments including the payment of bonus to workers.
“All the 87 tea gardens of Darjeeling continue to remain closed for more than three weeks due to ongoing situation. The industry has already incurred a direct estimated loss of more than Rs 150 crore,” Darjeeling Tea Association’s Chairman Binod Mohan told the reporters here.
He said all stakeholders including the five lakh people residing in the tea estates are being adversely affected due to the present crisis.
“The present disruption could result in a possible sickness and closure of several tea estates which would be difficult to revive,” Mohan said, adding that, “the industry has been facing cancellations of exports orders”.
The stoppage in production wreaks havoc in the industry as this period is the premium second flush season which brings 40 per cent of annual revenue to the industry, DTA’s past chairman Ashok Lohia said.
“The industry has apprehensions of meeting the financial commitments. We will be finding difficulties to pay bonus to the workers due to poor cash flow arising out of the present crisis,” Lohia said. He said the industry paid to the tune of Rs 70-80 crore on account of bonus in the last year. The industry had never faced such a long stoppage of production in the second flush harvesting period.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday accused the Centre of trying to fuel the ongoing unrest in the Darjeeling hills as well as the idea of a division of the state and said she will not allow fragmentation of Bengal in her lifetime.
“You are not able to fix the issues with Kashmir. It’s a total failure there. But you are trying to interfere in the Darjeeling issue and injecting people with the thought of dividing Bengal. I will not let that happen in this lifetime,” Banerjee said at a public meeting in the Burdwan district. — IANS