Centre to take over six closed tea gardens in Bengal

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Kolkata, Sep 15 (UNI) The Centre will take over six closed tea gardens in West Bengal by invoking a provision of the Tea Act next month, Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh today said.

" We have already given enough time to these tea garden owners.

But they are not willing to reopen the closed gardens. We are determined to invoke Section 16E of the Tea Act within the first week of October," he told a press conference here.

He said after taking over the gardens, the Government would hand them over to new management.

Section 16(E) of the Tea Act, empowers the Union Government to take over any garden which is closed for three months and hand it over to the new management.

Out of 300 tea gardens in the state, 13 gardens are closed for a long time prompting the Centre to take up the issue following request from the State Government.

The Union Minister, who earlier had talked to the state Government, banks, trade unions and the tea garden managements, today discussed the problem with state Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta and Commerce and Industry Minister Nirupam Sen.

" Today we have discussed how to invoke the Section 16(E) of the Tea Act. The modalities for invoking the Act will be finalised within 15 days," he said.

The Centre had already constituted a committee under the Chairmanship of Additional Secretary of Ministry of Commerce, which was now examining the modalities, Mr Ramesh said.

The Union Minister said the West Bengal Government would shortly announce a special scheme, waiving stamp and electricity duties and allowing certain portion of the closed tea gardens to be used for specified purposes to improve profitability.

The State Government, which had already cancelled the lease agreement of two closed tea gardens, would call for bids for prospective buyers next month, he said.

" The management of five other closed tea gardens are willing to reopen their tea estates and I expect that all the five gardens will be reopened within December this year," he said.

Mr Ramesh also announced that the Tea Board of India and West Bengal Government would prepare a draft agreement shortly for setting up of a tea park at Siliguri for direct export of Darjeeling tea.

The proposed tea park would have a warehouse for storage, blending and packaging. A special value addition zone for tea would also come up in Darjeeling for promotion of tea export, he added.

UNI

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