I missed this bit of news. The West Bengal Tea industry is in a mess (perhaps the only thriving industry in WB is of the puchkas/golgappaas).
So the centre has decided to take up 7 of these gardens:
Government has asked the Tea Board to take over the management of the seven tea gardens owned by Duncan Industries in view of their deteriorating conditions.
The Commerce Ministry in a notification dated January 28 said “… The central government hereby authorises the Tea Board to take immediate steps to take over the management or the control of the seven tea estates.”
The seven tea gardens include Birpara Tea Estate, Garganda Tea Estate, Lankapara Tea Estate and Tulsipara Tea Estate.
“The Central Government hereby authorises the Tea Board to take immediate steps to take over the management or the control of the above seven tea estates as per the provisions of Chapter III-A of the Tea Act, 1953 (29 of 1953),” the notification said.
The Swarajya team opines on this:
A one-time vibrant industry has been finished off, causing great human misery and wretchedness by a small bunch of businessmen in collusion with the local authorities. Any labour unrest was crushed by the CPM, and there is no reason to believe that Mamata has been any different.
The labour population is mostly tribal, and this is also the very region of Bengal which has seen the most massive illegal Bangladeshi influx. The owners have taken all the money out, sucked out everything , and are happily applying to Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR). This region could be a possible powder keg.
Given this, one is not surprised that this move by the Central government has found a lot of support with the locals. The only point, of course, is that can the men from the Tea Board do anything to turn the gardens around, make them a profitable enterprise and then sell them back to private players?
It’ll be a very difficult task and will require very dedicated managerial expertise. The Tea Board or the West Bengal government should have got into serious action over this at least a decade ago. By now, the tea bushes would all be barren.
This will be a good experiment. Any economics student would outright reject the idea saying govt is likely to do any worse.
On a serious note, I think we should really sit up and document developments in all these regional industries. Most of them look under trouble and employ large number of people. It is fine to be obsessed with the new fancy word of start ups and so on. We also need to figure why things are so hopelessly wrong with these old industries. And tea is not something like a Gramophone industry which has to go given technological changes. Tea is pretty much drank all over India and should be a thriving evergreen industry…