Subsidy, focus on workers’ conditions in Budget as Assam Tea celebrates 200 years

Guwahati, Mar 16 (PTI) As Assam celebrated 200 years of first tea plantation being set up in the state, the state government on Thursday announced increased production subsidy for orthodox and specialty teas, and waiver of past electricity dues of tea garden workers living on `coolie lines’.

It also said that tea garden and adivasi community will be recognsied as a separate sub-category within the Other Backward Classes (OBC), and that the government will focus on improving infrastructure in workers’ colonies.
Finance Minister Ajanta Neog, while making the announcements as part of Assam’s annual budget, also said the government will celebrate completion of 200 years of Assam Tea in a grand manner.

Road shows in major cities across the country as well as abroad to promote Assam Tea as a brand and showcase the rich socio-cultural heritage of tea garden communities has been proposed, she said.

Neog said the Assam Tea Industries Special Incentives Scheme (ATISIS), 2020, will be further strengthened to incentivise the production of orthodox tea and specialty tea in Assam.

“As promised, increase in the production subsidy for orthodox and specialty tea from Rs 7 to Rs 10 per kg is already under process. However, celebrating the 200 years of Assam Tea, I am pleased to announce that for the current year of 2023-24 only, an enhanced production subsidy of Rs 12 per kg will be extended,” she said, earmarking Rs 100 crore for the scheme.

The Finance Minister also proposed extension of tax holiday on Agricultural Income Tax for a period of next three years.

Neog said emphasis will be given on infrastructure development of tea garden labour lines, especially on development of roads.

“This year, as a special relief, all the arrear on electricity dues of tea garden worker families living in the lines will be waived off as a one-time measure by the Government. I will earmark Rs 150 crore for the same,” she said.

Neog also said that tea garden and Adivasi community will be recognised as a separate sub-category within Other Backward Classes (OBC) and around 3 per cent reservation in government jobs, within the OBC quota, will be considered for them, subject to fulfilling legal stipulations.

She also said compensation for pregnant women among tea garden workers will be increased to Rs 15,000 from existing Rs 12,000, Rs 200 crore has been kept for construction of 500 Mahaprabhu Jagannath Community Hall cum Skill Centres in tea gardens and 10,000 houses will be constructed in Tea Garden labour lines under Mukhya Mantri Awaas Yojana.

She also allocated Rs 100 crore for supporting Assam Tea Corporation Limited (ATCL) against the payment of outstanding liabilities of interest on Provident Fund.

She said the government plans to take up different priority schemes like the Small Tea Garden Workers’ Social Security Scheme to provide financial assistance to small tea garden workers undergoing medical treatment.

The minister also said as part of a thrust on tea tourism, some 50 tea gardens have already been selected by the Tourism department to provide capital infrastructure support.

Two high-end Tea Tourism resorts will also be set up in Kaziranga, she added.

Neog said the Assam Chah Janagusthiya Samannay Kalakshetra scheme, taken up in 2021-22 to construct a self-sustaining multi faceted socio-cultural centre, will be located near Kaziranga at Hatikhuli Bagicha Gaon in Golaghat.

She also said an one-time cash grant of Rs 25,000 each to self-employed entrepreneurs belonging to Tea Tribes Communities under the Swahid Dayal Das Panika Swaniyojon Achoni has been proposed and Rs 429.38 crore earmarked for it.

Meanwhile, planters’ body Tea Association of India (TAI) has hailed the Assam budget and lauded the extension of the agricultural income tax exemption and the special incentive on production of orthodox and specialty tea.

“The proposal to hold road shows all over India to promote Assam tea, as part of the 200 years celebration, would be of immense benefit to the Assam Tea Industry,” Dipanjol Deka, secretary, TAI Assam Branch, said.

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