COFFEE NEWS: Coffee replaces paddy for more profit – specially with water distribution being neglected by Bengal since 1947 ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY RAJEEV RAVIDAS
Kalimpong, Nov. 29: What tea is to Darjeeling, will coffee be to Kalimpong? A few more years and the answer will be there but for now the seeds of such a possibility have been planted.
Bongbusty, a picturesque village with terraced paddy fields, 3km from here, is where a project to introduce coffee farming in the hills has begun.
The experiment was started two years ago when Gopal Dixit and his brother Robin of Dixitgaon in Bongbusty replaced paddy plants with coffee seedlings in their fields.
The idea of cultivating coffee came from their cousin Deo Dixit, a coffee consultant based in Bhutan.
“We had been planting paddy in our fields for years. However, diminishing yield and non-availability of farm hands had made it non-sustainable. This is why we decided to experiment with coffee on a small scale,” said Gopal.
The Dixits have planted coffee seeds on their 6-acre plot. The trees are now two years old and they will take another year or two to mature.
“An acre of land can accommodate around 700 to 2,000 trees depending on the space between the plants and the variety of coffee. An acre of land can yield between 500 and 1,000kg of green beans,” said Deo. He said 1kg of green coffee beans could fetch between $3 and $5 in the international market.
The Dixits have planted Arabica coffee in their field.
“Arabica is a better variety of coffee and is grown in higher altitudes. The climate of Kalimpong is nice and warm and is right for coffee plantation. Many people here grow coffee as an ornamental plant in their gardens. I have hand crushed some of the beans and tasted them. They are really good,” said Deo.
He added that if the coffee experiment is successful then it could be good news for the farmers here.
“Coffee plants do not require much looking after. The money from selling the beans also remains with the farmers. A large number of people from the rural areas will also be gainfully employed,” he added.
Residents of Bongbusty are waiting for the experiment to bear fruit before they too wake up to the prospect of maximising profits from the land by planting coffee.
“If the experiment is successful and coffee farming gets necessary support from all people concerned, then Kalimpong can be on the coffee map of the world,” said Deo.
TEA NEWS: Tea workers in govt dues cry – but Bengal turns deaf ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Jalpaiguri, Nov. 29: About hundred workers from the closed Dheklapara tea garden and the sick Mujnai tea estate gathered at the district collectorate here today demanding their dues under two central government schemes.
Workers of Dheklapara Tea Estate said they were yet to be paid money under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and the Financial Assistance to Workers of Locked Out Industries (FAWLOI).
Basanti Tanti, a worker of Dheklapara that has been closed since 2002, said the operating and management committee sold tealeaves weighing between 500 and 1,000 kilos during the season.
“We get around Rs 30-40 a day from the OMC by plucking and sorting leaves. But only three days are allotted for work in a week. We are also denied money under a central scheme to provide assistance to workers of closed gardens. Although we worked for 21 days between April and November under the NREGS, we haven’t been paid the wages yet,” she said.
Another Dheklapara labourer, Lakshman Munda, said the garden dwellers were dependant on the work under the employment guarantee programme. “We are not getting the full quota of 100-days work that the scheme guarantees for a year,” said Munda. He said payments for June, July and August under the FAWLOI had been last made just before the Pujas. A worker gets Rs 1,000 a month under the FAWLOI.
A worker of the Integrated Child Development Services in Mujnai tea garden, Krishna Chhetri, said: “The labourers have not got work under the NREGS in the past five months and many of them are breaking boulders on the riverbeds.”
Both Dheklapara and Mujnai estates are located in Madarihat block.
As district magistrate Vandana Yadav was away, the workers met additional district magistrate (general), Doma Sherpa, who listened to their demands.
“Last year, Jalpaiguri topped the list of districts implementing the NREGS in the state by providing 64 days of work. This year, the Centre has been releasing funds slowly,” said Sherpa.
He said the dues would be cleared by the first week of December and after that, new work would be allotted under the NREGS.