Wednesday July 24, 2019
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Assam flood toll hits 13, CM undertakes aerial visit


Guwahati: The flood situation across Assam continued to be grim as the toll rose to 13 on Sunday and 18 districts still remain inundated, officials said. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Sunday undertook an aerial survey of the worst affected districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Bongaigaon, Goalpara and Dhubri. A total of 1,291 villages have been submerged so far, affecting 6.16 lakh people. The district administrations have opened 260 relief camps, housing 1.79 lakh people. Gogoi asked the concerned departments to expedite rescue and relief operations in all the flood-hit areas.


He praised the National Disaster Response Force and the army for their efforts in rescuing marooned people, and said ministers and officials have fanned out to the affected areas and were monitoring the relief operation. The chief minister said the first priority of his government was providing relief to the flood-hit people. He said he has instructed the deputy commissioners of the affected districts to leave no stone unturned to extend all possible help to the affected people, especially children and women. “Restoration of surface communication and repair of breached embankments have also been accorded priorities,” he said. Gogoi slammed the BJP-led central government, saying it was yet to release a sizable chunk of funds sought by the state for infrastructure damage caused by floods last year.

“The Center has only released Rs.380 crore so far. We submitted memorandum to the central government including the prime minister and the home minister, but we have not received the funds sought by us for huge infrastructure damage caused by floods last year,” he said. Gogoi said there are no funds constraints in providing relief to the affected people. “We have funds for relief work. What we require from the central government is sufficient funds for building infrastructure such as roads, bridges, school buildings, health centers, houses and embankments damaged by floods last year and proper rehabilitation of the flood-hit people,” Gogoi said.

In a memorandum to Home Minister Rajnath Singh in October last year, Gogoi sought Rs.2,010 crore for damaged infrastructure. The state also demanded Rs.660 crore for rescue and relief operations. Besides, Rs.6,700 crore was sought as special assistance, which included Rs.3,500 crore for raising and strengthening of embankments and Rs.1,000 crore for mitigating flood problems in Guwahati city. Gogoi said the state government would prepare an assessment report highlighting the damage only after the flood waters recede.


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Assam Tea Growers Start No Sickles Campaign to Ensure the Overall Quality of Assam Tea

During the last 35 years there has been a huge increase in the land area under tea cultivation

Although Assam tea is known worldwide for its quality due to hand plucking of 'two leaves and a bud', some of the gardens have resorted to harvesting tea leaves. Pixabay

To ensure the overall quality of Assam tea, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has started a ‘No sickles’ campaign among the tea gardens of Assam.

Although Assam tea is known worldwide for its quality due to hand plucking of ‘two leaves and a bud’, some of the gardens have resorted to harvesting tea leaves with sickles (which is popularly known as kasi) affecting the quality of the tea.

Chairman of NETA, Nepul Saikia said this on Wednesday while adding that the organization has started the campaign “Say NA to Kasi for tea harvesting” from today and added that the campaign is basically to bring awareness amongst the tea producers not to use sickles during harvesting of tea leaves.

He said that during the last 35 years there has been a huge increase in the land area under tea cultivation. In 1990, Assam’s tea production was only 388 million kgs which has grown to 692 million kgs in 2018.

Assam, Tea Growers, Sickles
To ensure the overall quality of Assam tea, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has started a ‘No sickles’ campaign. Pixabay

“There has been an increase of about 300 million kgs in 28 years which is about 80 per cent increase in production in 2018 compared to 1990 figures. However, there is a shortage of workers in peak cropping months – July, August, September and October. To overcome the shortage of workers some growers have resorted to harvesting tea leaves with sickles,” he said adding that the tea leaves harvested with sickles are of very poor quality and this is one of the major reasons for the quality failure of Assam tea.

“As per the latest Tea Board figures, about 49 per cent of tea produced in Assam is from the green tea leaves by small tea growers. Though a majority of small tea growers do not use sickles throughout the year we have started this campaign before it is too late”, said Saikia.

“This campaign is to basically bring awareness amongst tea growers on the harvesting of quality tea and also to bring the attention of policymakers in providing growers with substitutes like shears, battery operated plucking machines and one/two men operated harvesting machines”, said Bidyananda Barkakoty, Adviser NETA.

The Tea Board has a field mechanization scheme of 25 per cent subsidy on plucking and pruning machines for general category and 100 per cent subsidy for SC & ST. “This scheme can be further popularized amongst the growers and subsidy amount should be increased to 75 per cent for general category”, Barkakoty added.

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“A Guwahati-based investor is developing a plucking machine with an Israeli technique and we are expecting a prototype of it in October. This plucking machine which is in the designing stage now will help in selective harvesting of tea leaves similar to hand plucking”, he added. (IANS)