ERJ staff report (TP)
Guwahati, India – In the north east of the country, the Tripura government's proposal to bar cultivation of rubber on land meant for tea estates has provoked an outcry in the state, with the opposition protesting against the move and tea planters threatening to take the matter to court, reported Bikash Singh for The Economic Times.
Besides the opposition Congress party and the Nationalist Party of Twipra, about 40 organisations have opposed the Tripura Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill (10th amendment), which is currently with the select committee of the state assembly.
There is a land ceiling in place in Tripura, where relaxation is made only in case of tea cultivation. The government has, however, allowed coffee cultivation on unused land in tea estates. Under the proposed amendment bill, no one will be allowed to possess more than 7.2 hectares of land.
There are about 52 tea estates with nearly a dozen factories in the state. Of the 14,000 hectare earmarked for tea cultivation, only 4,500 hectares is covered with tea bushes.
Several tea planters have started rubber cultivation to offset the slowdown in tea business during the 1990s. "About 15 tea estates have used surplus land for rubber cultivation. It costs Rs100 (€1.17) to manufacture a kg of tea in the state while it fetches just Rs103 (€1.21). So, to survive, planters have to diversify to rubber as agro climatic conditions favour rubber," said Tara Bhusan Saha, member of Tripura Tea Association.
"The government's decision to put a ceiling on the ownership of land will be disastrous. This is totally unrealistic and a short-sighted move on the part of the government,” he added.
Gautam Das, spokesperson of the ruling Communist Party of India, however, argued that the idea was to redistribute land among the landless people. "Landlords will oppose it, but we have to see how best the land can be utilised.”
Saha added that the climate was not suitable for coffee plantation. "Agro climatic conditions are not suitable for coffee plantation. Government has started coffee plantation, but that has failed miserably," he claimed. Tripura is the second largest producer of rubber in the country after Kerala.
Rubber crop is spread over 61,000 hectares across the state. An official, who did not wish to be named, said the protests were on a scale never seen before in the state. "It is unprecedented as 1,184 people and 40 organisations, including indigenous people and political parties, have filed their objections." Revenue minister Badal Chowdhury has, however, assured that the government will address the grievances of the protesters.
This is an external link and should open in a new window. If the window does not appear, please check your pop-up blocking software. ERJ is not responsible for the content of external sites.
Full story from The Economic Times