High social costs and fierce competition in the global markets have prompted the tea industry to ask the central and state governments to share its social burdens.
The industry has requested the government to bring tea garden workers under the several welfare schemes of Bharat Nirman. This, it feels, would help improve the social infrastructure of tea plantations.
“The cost burden of social utilities provided to our workers has now become unbearable. Every now and then, we hear assurances that social costs will be eased but nothing tangible has been done yet. We are consistently losing ground in the global market because we have lost our competitive edge owing to our higher cost of production and sales, which has also been accepted by the central government,” said D P Maheshwari, president of Tea Association of India (TAI) at the 30th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of its Assam branch, held in Tezpur on Sunday.
“Nothing comes free in this world and certainly not quality. Costs of inputs, labour and staff wages, fuel and power, fertiliser, transportation – the price of each and every item – are steadily on the rise and we can do very little to control it.”
However, the tea industry has praised the Assam government for allowing tea garden workers and residents to enjoy the benefits of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) that is run under the public-private partnership model.
Maheshwari said, TAI has been pleading with both the Union and state governments to cover tea gardens under the various welfare schemes of Bharat Nirman.
According to him, inclusion of tea gardens under the Bharat Nirman schemes will not only improve the quality of the lives of the garden workers, most of whom are adivasis, but would also reduce the burden of the garden managements on account of social cost.
He said though price realisation was good this year, gains were negated by an increase in production costs. “Since cost of almost all inputs are beyond our control, to survive and sustain is a major challenge before the Indian tea industry on Monday.”