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Tea industry hails welfare measures in Assam budget

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Guwahati, Feb 6 (IANS) Assam’s tea industry has hailed the state’s budget for 2019-20, which includes several welfare measures for the tea garden workers.

Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who presented the budget in the Assembly on Wednesday, announced a slew of welfare plans for the tea garden workers, while also proposing to hold the levy on green tea leaves for three years.

Sarma said the government proposed to keep in abeyance the levy and payment of tax on green tea leaves under the Assam Taxation (On Specified Land) Act, 1990 for three years with effect from January 1, 2019 till December 31, 2021.

The joint forum of Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA), the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) and the Bharatiya Cha Parishad (BCP) expressed satisfaction over the announcement and said it would help boost the industry.

“We would like to express our gratitude to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Finance Minister Sarma for keeping green tea leaf cess in abeyance for three years and initiating welfare measures for the tea tribe community,” they said in a joint statement.

Assam is the largest producer of tea in the world. Of the total domestic tea production of 1,325.05 million kg last year, 676.31 million kg came from Assam.

The green tea leaf cess for big growers in Assam is 40 paise per kg. Of the total green tea leaves production, 42 per cent is produced by small growers and 58 per cent by big growers.

The Minister also proposed a slew of schemes for the tea garden workers, including free rice and sugar, uniform for school students, a monthly stipend of Rs 10,000 for every college student, skill training for youth from the tea tribes community and a one-time grant of Rs 25,000 for these skilled youth to start their own businesses.

The Finance minister also announced Auxiliary Nurse Midwifery (ANM) and General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) training programmes for 500 girls from the tea tribes community in 2019-20.

The budget also proposes to provide free medicines — listed in the Essential Drugs List — to 300 tea garden hospitals along with breakfast, cooked meal and evening tea.

“In the budget speech, the Finance Minister has announced many welfare schemes for the tea tribe community, which is highly appreciable. These schemes will also be of help to the management in some way or other,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, adviser, NETA.



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