Wednesday, January 27, 2010


The Assam Legislative Assembly adopted an unanimous resolution on 2nd April, 2002 demanding that the big tea companies, having tea gardens in Assam, are to shift their Head Quarters to Assam so that the local youths can get preference in appointment and other ancillary facilities. For that purpose, it decided to send a team of State Legislatures led by the Speaker of the Assembly to put pressure on the Government of India for mobilization of the process. It is not known what was the ultimate out-turn, but there is reason to believe that that it was simply a castle in the air.
There are about 800 tea gardens in Assam having there industrial base side by side. The big tea companies have their Head Offices at Kolkata, will be not less than 90% of such industrial based gardens, existent in Assam. The functioning of the gardens are carried on by remote control devices from Kolkata and the local management in Assam are kept in the dark about the modus-operandi in relation to the sales and purchases exercise effected from the gardens, employment avenue and other allied matters. They are to remain practically cipher in all respects. There can not question of ‘what’ any ‘why’. In true sense, the Head offices owe little allegiance to the State, bother a little for the development and welfare of the people of Assam, They use and utilize the soil of Assam, as the grazing grounds of the company for production and manufacture of tea keeping the aim in view to enrich and enlarge their assets and fiscal resources. Several moves were already made requiring the tea companies to shift their Head Quarters from Kolkata to Assam, but it reached to the deaf ears without any positive and fruitful reactions.
The tea lobby, as it appears, is very much powerful in Assam. They play the pivotal role in the elections scenario vis-a-vis installation of the party Governments to power and even dare to make imposition over the functioning of the Government. The Government in power, it seems from experience, can not over rule their imposed counsels or to be tough to them thereby to invite any displeasure. Neither the Government of Assam nor the Government of India is keen to force or make any imposition to the tea companies to shift the Head offices to Assam. This, they feel, may be abusive in as much as it would make way to curb the fundamental rights, guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The only way, as we believe, is that there should be effective dialogue, assertive pressures and keen pursuance by the mass people of Assam to yield any productive yields.
Avenue of employment :The Head offices of the tea companies formulate the recruitment policy of the respective gardens and make proper implementation of the same through the machineries installed in Assam. In such exercise, the youths of Assam are mostly deprived of any executive, technical or other important assignments in the tea gardens. There is no proper and proportionate representation of the youths of Assam in the Head offices of the tea companies, which are being run at the cost of earnings, derived from the soil of Assam. In that way, they project their indifference and callousness and obviously fail to discharge their obligations not only to the State but to the mass people of Assam. The acute unemployment problems could have been minimized to a great extent had the tea companies extended their healthy and sympathetic gesture to do away with the same.
Purchases of goods :The tea gardens of Assam are not empowered to purchase any goods in Assam. The Head offices make it a prevalent practice to purchase the motor vehicles, machinery, plants, equipment, production and packing materials and other requisites at Kolkata or some other places to the best of their best choice. It was pointed out in the Legislative Assembly at the relevant time that out of such 256 items purchased from places out side the State of Assam, the purchase value of tea bags alone came to Rs. 32 crore in a year. The way of such divergent trade activities adopted, is, no doubt, quite detrimental to the interest of the usual trade practice vis-à-vis healthy growth of economy in the form of revenue in Assam.
Entry tax :A measure of tax on the entry of goods was introduced in Assam by way of enactment of the Assam Entry Tax Act, 2001.The said Act was subsequently repealed consequent upon some legal controversies and a fresh law was enacted from 1st June, 2008. If such items embodied in the entry tax net of Assam, are imported on purchase for use or consumption by the tea gardens, the revenue generation is likely to be ensured and the heavy drainage of revenue in the name of purchase in other State is expected to be averted. It is felt that the tea companies will ultimately prefer to exercise a reverse course of action vis-a vis to purchase such goods, as are available in Assam to make wide flow of revenue to the State Coffer. Of course, the goods, which can not be had in Assam are to be purchased from places out side Assam and there is no other alternative to that.
The tea garden owners are extracting money from Assam soil and making investments of the heavy profit amount, earned thereof, in places out side the State. A dearth of interest is always in sight in their minds for the development and prosperity of Assam. In economic spheres too, the State fails to get the legitimate revenue on this pretext or that.
It is high time that the Government is to assert its stand and impress upon the tea gardens, augmenting the resources from the soil of Assam to be aware of their obligation and allegiance for the development of Assam, which is still maintaining acute backwardness, compared to others States in the Indian sub-continent. The voice of the people will equally be a basic way of action in compelling such tea companies to change such modus-operandi in the long run.

(Mrinal Kanti Chakrabartty)
“Rudrs Bhawan”R.G. Barua Road, Lakhimipath

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