Amidst interruption by the Assam Congress, a West Bengal Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP again opposed the proposed attempt to shift the head office of the Tea Board of India from Kolkata to Guwahati.
Raising the issue during Special Mention in Rajya Sabha, Vivek Gupta said that tea is one of the industries, which by an Act of Parliament, comes under the control of the Union Government.
The genesis of the Tea Board of India dates back to 1903, when the Indian Tea Cess Bill was passed. The present Tea Board, set up under Section 4 of the Tea Act, 1953, was constituted on April 1, 1954.
‘Since its inception, the Tea Board has been located in Kolkata, but recently we witnessed that the employees are being harassed; they are being shifted in batches to other offices; they are being made to wait compulsorily. This is the alleged move because a new party has come to power in Assam; it is trying to favour Guwahati,’ Gupta alleged.
However, Assam Congress MP Bhubaneswar Kalita welcomed the decision saying demand is not new, but a half-century-old demand, ‘Since 80 per cent of the tea is produced in Assam, the Tea Board headquarters should be located in the State.’
‘I have full sympathies with Guwahati. Our heart goes out to Guwahati. But, it should not be done at the cost of Kolkata. We should not be made to suffer. The Tea Board headquarters in Bengal is as good as our hand to our body, and if you take away the Tea Board headquarters from Kolkata, it would mean that you are chopping our hands away,’ Gupta pointed out.
All big decisions, whether it is the appointment of chairmen or the shifting of the Tea Board headquarters, are being done without any consultation with the State Government and without taking into account the immense hardship that the State Government and the employees will face.
‘I would also like to say that Bengal is not only just the headquarters of the Tea Board, it is the port area there, and all the auction houses have been there for centuries. You have the port, warehouses, and a lot of infrastructure been created. A lot of jobs are there. The Tea Board headquarters may be a symbolic shift, but the downward problems would be tremendous for the industry and everybody else,’ Gupta stated. Last week, the matter was raised by TMC MP Saugata Roy in Lok Sabha.