A tea plantation worker keeps an eye on her kids in Nagaon (ANI)
GUWAHATI: The North East Tea Association (NETA) on Friday wrote to the government seeking exemption on movement of tea garden workers and vehicles carrying tea leaves during the curfew hours, so that the industry does not suffer.
In the letter to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority chief executive officer Gyanendra Tripathi, NETA advisor Bidyananda Barkakoty said, “Those involved in the manufacturing process do not stay on the factory premises. Therefore, people working in tea factories may require movement to the factory and back even during curfew hours. So, we have requested the government to consider the matter and grant permission for the movement.”
He also pointed out that the revised standard operating procedure (SOP) issued on Thursday has exempted the movement of people related to the “manufacturing units of essential commodities” and “production units which require continuous process” from the purview of the movement restrictions and odd-even vehicular regulation.
“Tea manufacturing is a continuous process and it is an essential food item. Because of the nature of the industry, manufacturing of tea starts from early morning and carries on till late in the night. Green leaf is a perishable commodity and it needs to go for processing within a certain period of time. Therefore, we request allowing movement of such vehicles during curfew hours,” he stated in the letter.
The curfew on plying of vehicles has been imposed from 2 pm to 5 am effective from May 13. Meanwhile, he said one of the major challenges of the tea industry is shortage of workers. “Many tea estates and tea factories bring workers by bus from nearby villages. We have already advised those estates and tea factories to maintain 50% of the seating capacity of bus according to the government’s order for public transport,” he said.
He said the May 12 order applies only in respect of urban areas and adjacent areas within 5-km radius from the periphery of municipal corporation/municipal boards/revenue towns.
“As most of the tea gardens were in rural areas, their functioning won’t be a problem. The few tea gardens which are within the 5-km radius of the municipality areas have been advised to operate from 5 am to 1 pm,” he added.
Barkakoty has also written to the deputy commissioners of the tea-producing districts seeking permission for smooth functioning of the gardens and factories and plying of leaf-carrying vehicles.