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Small tea growers in north Bengal prepare to set up own processing units

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Kolkata: Complaining about the abnormally low price for their yields, small tea growers in north Bengal’s Terai and Dooars area are now seeking help from the union government to set up their own processing units to reduce their dependency on estate and bought leaf factories (BLFs) in the region.

Small tea growers (STGs) – who sell their green plucked leaves to these processing factories – alleged that the payment from the bought tea leaf factories for their produce is much too low. The BLFs do not own any gardens but buy the green plucked leaves from the small tea growers, process them and sell it to packers and blenders.

“While the production cost in north Bengal is as high as Rs. 12.78 per kg, we only get Rs. 5-7 per kg on selling to the BLFs. We cannot sell tea in the auctions, as a result of which we are not able to know how much our teas actually fetch in the markets,” Bijoygopal Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA), told IANS.

According to a majority of the small tea planters, self-owned micro-small garden factories will help reduce their dependency on the BLFs and hence improve their revenues and profitability.

He alleged the 137 BLFs in the region are forcefully enforcing their own quality standards, disregarding the norms of the Tea Board, which is resulting in the STGs getting low incomes.

Sanjay Dhanuti, president of the North Bengal Tea Producers Association – comprising the BLFs – said the prices are dependent on the quality of leaves, which varies across gardens and flush seasons.

“If the stock has 20 percent count of good quality green leaves, it can fetch between Rs. 10.5-12 per kg while a 35 percent fine count can fetch Rs. 13 per kg. However, for produce which is of low quality, it goes around the market, for as low as Rs. 7 per kg and nobody is willing to buy it”, Dhanuti told IANS.

This problem, however, does not persist for the small tea growers in Darjeeling, who get a fair price for their yield, selling the leaves at Rs.35 to Rs.40 a kg to the BLFs.

The STG association has written to union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, highlighting their concerns.

“There is a lack of transparency in terms of how the BLFs and the estate factories sell the made tea and the price at which they sell it. The price of tea fluctuates so much that during the peak season time it reduces to Rs.3-Rs.5 a kg”, the letter said.

Chakraborty said lack of their own processing units, remote location of the small-scale gardens and the perishable nature of the green leaves are the primary reasons for their woes.

While the government has already sanctioned a 25 percent subsidy to set up micro-small processing units for the STG’s gardens, the industry body has asked the minister to step up the monitoring process by the Tea Board while procuring or buying the processing machines, besides expressing other concerns.

“There are nearly 52 companies which have mushroomed to sell their machinery to the micro-small processing units despite having no credentials to produce good quality machines. The Tea Board need to check their quality and durability before disbursing any subsidy,” Chakraborty said.

The ministry had allocated Rs.200 crore ($30 million) during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17) for the development of the country’s small tea planters. The small tea growers are however wary about the machinery subsidy reaching the BLFs or gardens.

“The first priority for the subsidy needs to be the collectives set-up by STGs and the proposed factories need to be given only to the actual small tea planter who has the capacity to process his own yield,” Chakraborty said.

Tea growers in the region said ensuring this will not replicate the existing scenario between the STGs and BLFs.

According to CISTA, in case the factories are allotted to planters who do not have sufficient cultivable area or yield, the planter in the long run may himself become another BLF which may further jeopardize the trade.

The Tea Board has also taken steps to secure the interests of small tea growers.

“We have introduced the minimum benchmark price which defines the minimum price payable to the STGs for green leaf purchase. This varies across regions and violation of the prescribed price may eventually result in cancellation of a factory’s license,” Chandra Shekhar Mitra, deputy director of tea development at the Tea Board, told IANS.

To promote tea output, the Tea Board has also abolished the compulsory notarised declaration on cultivation practices, standards and management of personnel from tea gardens to avail of the subsidies and replaced this with self-attested declarations.

(Avishek Rakshit, IANS)

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Asia Cup : India Emerge Champions for third time, Beat Malaysia in Asia Cup Hockey Championship

India emerged victorious for the third time

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(representational Image) India vs Malaysia Hockey Match wikimedia

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India overcame Malaysia 2-1 in the final on Sunday to win the Asia Cup hockey championship for the third time.

Ramandeep Singh (3rd minute) and Lalit Upadhyay (29th) scored for India. Shahril Saabah (50th minute) scored the reducer for Malaysia. (IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.