TEA NEWS: Tea growers to meet Buddha for clearance – sadly, still stuck in Bengal’s stifling bureaucracy ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Jalpaiguri, Nov. 7: Small tea growers have decided to pressure the government so that it does not (use ?!!) 2001 as cut-off year to recognise plantations.
The state land and land reforms department had decided in April that it would not issue no-objection certificates to small tea gardens which had come up after June 30, 2001.
“The decision of the state government not to recognise those gardens that had come up after 2001 is a ‘body blow’ to the owners. About 90 per cent of the small gardens that had come up before the cut-off date are yet to receive the NOCs,” said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, the chairperson of the United Forum of Small Tea Growers’ Association.
“Members of the association will leave for Calcutta tomorrow and meet the chief minister at Writers’ Buildings to air their grievances,” he said.
According to sources in the land department, while there were 7,480 small gardens at the end of June 30, 2001, an additional 13,910 such plantations have come up after that. So far, the land depart-ment has surveyed only 21,390 small gardens, said officials.
The sources said from 58,159 acres under small tea gardens in 2001, the figure has gone up to 88,957 acres till last year.
Chakraborty alleged that a large number of applications for the NOC lying with the block land and land reforms offices had been misplaced.
“The members of our association have complained that even fresh applications for NOCs were not being processed by the land department staff. Absence of NOCs is preventing the owners from applying for bank loans and taking advantage of the schemes under the Tea Board of India. A movement will be launched to demand the certificates for all the small tea growers regardless of the cut-off date,” he said.
The Jalpaiguri land and land reforms officer, Pranati Sewa, said of the 1,894 small tea gardens in the district, about 1,600 had applied for the NOC.
“It has been possible to give the NOCs to about 800 of them. The distribution of the certificates was delayed, as there were many errors in the application forms. We have asked the applicants to correct the errors and re-submit the applications.”