Mumbai: The government is weighing plans to take over
closed tea gardens and sell them to prospective buyers
through a tendering process to get them up and running,
minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh said.
He said at least 33 small gardens have been shut for over
two years in the states of West Bengal, Assam and Kerala,
after yields from their ageing tea bushes plummeted.
The government has held several rounds of talks with the
owners, but has failed to reopen the plantations.
"Since many gardens are still shut, the state-run
Tea Board has been directed on behalf of the government
to start a process... to take over the gardens,"
Ramesh said at a news conference.
The government will initially takeover about three gardens,
he said, without elaborating.
Last month, a court inquiry found hundreds of tea workers
had died from diseases linked with malnutrition over the
past year after the closure of tea estates in West Bengal
left them with no income.
While plantation owners blame it on the country''s strong
regulations to protect workers'' rights that make it impossible
for companies to remove staff, trade unions say that estate
owners have failed pay wages and other arrears owed to
workers following the shutdown and are now fighting the
employers for compensation in court.
said India, the world''s largest producer and consumer
of tea, aimed to export $7 billion worth of leather goods
by the fiscal year ending March 2011, up from $3 billion
The commerce ministry will invest Rs64 crore ($15.7 million)
by mid-2008 to build centres from potato and pineapple
processing to a cargo complex in West Bengal to help boost
farm exports, he said.