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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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Dalai Lama says that India and China have great potential

The spiritual leader feels that both the countries are doing compassionate works

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Dalai Lama talks about India and China
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai says that India and China can work together. VOA

New Delhi, Nov 19

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have “great potential” and they could work together at a “practical level”.

“I think, a great potential… India and China combined are doing more compassionate work… At a practical level also. Imagine two billion people working together,” he told reporters here after inaugurating Smile Foundation’s initiative, The World of Children.

The spiritual leader, who has lived in India in self-imposed exile since 1959, said neither country had the “ability to destroy the other”.

“Whether you like it or not, you have to live side by side,” he said.

Underlining the ancient spiritual connection between the two countries, he said Chinese Buddhist Hsuan Tsang visited Nalanda (now in Bihar) and brought Nalanda Buddhist traditions to China.

“All thinkers of Nalanda are Indian. So Nalanda’s tradition is India’s tradition,” he said.

The Nalanda traditions had turned Tibetans, who were warriors, into more compassionate, peaceful and non-violent nation, he said.

“So sometimes in Delhi, teasing my Indian friend, (I say) if Tibet still remained in the previous way of life, like Mongols, Chinese invasion may not have taken place,” the Dalai Lama said in a lighter vein.

He said nobody in the world wanted violence but it was happening “because our minds are dominated by destructive emotions due to short-sightedness”.

“Nobody wants problems. Yet, many problems are our own creation.”

The Dalai Lama said the existing modern education was oriented to material values. India can take lead in improving the education system by combining modern education with ancient knowledge, he said. (IANS)

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Manushi Chhillar from India Wins the Miss World 2017 Title

India's Manushi Chillar won the coveted Miss World 2017 pageant here, 16 years after Priyanka Chopra won the title in 2000.

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Miss World
Manushi Chhillar has been crowned as Miss World 2017. Instagram #ManushiChhillar

China, November 19: India’s Manushi Chhillar won the coveted Miss World 2017 pageant, 16 years after Priyanka Chopra won the title in 2000.

Chhillar competed against 108 contestants from various countries at a glittering event held at Sanya City Arena here.

Miss World 2016 winner Puerto Rico’s Stephanie Del Valle gave away the coveted crown to the winner.

Chhillar, who is from Haryana, had earlier this year won the Femina Miss India 2017.

Miss world
Anti Ageing was the official skin care expert for Manushi Chhillar at the Miss World 2017 pageant. Instagram #ManushiChhillar

India, England, France, Kenya and Mexico grabbed the top five spots at the peagant.

Manushi, born to doctor parents, studied in St. Thomas School in New Delhi and Bhagat Phool Singh Government Medical College for Women in Sonepat.

Her entire family including brother and sister were present and they looked excited watching Manushi grabbing top five spot.

As many as 108 beauty queens from different parts of the world participated in the prestigious pageant. (IANS)

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The major Challenge is to make the Youth of the Country Entrepreneurial and not Job Seekers : Venkaiah Naidu

"The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers," Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government's various initiatives.

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Venkaiah Naidu
Venkaiah Naidu. Wikimedia Commons
  • At a time of tepid job growth and continuing income disparities, the major challenge is to make the youth of the country entrepreneurial and not job seekers, Vice President  Venkaiah Naidu said on Thursday.

“Disparities continue to remain in India and so there is a need for inclusive growth… there is the need to take care of the suppressed, oppressed and depressed,” Venkaiah Naidu said at the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust’s (BYST) silver jubilee celebrations here with Britain’s Prince Charles as the chief guest.

“The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers,” Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government’s various initiatives to encourage youth enterprises like Startup India, Standup India and the Mudra financing scheme for underprivileged sections.

Modelled on Prince Charles’ Trust for business startups, BYST, founded by Lakshmi Venkatesan, daughter of former President R. Venkatraman, is engaged in building rural entrepreneurship — “grampreneurs” — as also enterprise among under-privileged sections, which includes business mentoring. The current BYST chairman is Bajaj Group chief, Rahul Bajaj.

“Without mentoring, it would be very difficult to set up startups, with all the business, marketing and other vital issues involved in the first two-three years,” Prince Charles said in his address at the International Mentoring Summit organized by BYST to mark its 25 years.

“What amazes me are the sheer number of jobs these young entrepreneurs had created. The aim of such a project should be to create a virtual cycle of creating entrepreneurs who can then invest in the future of business,” Charles said referring to his trust.

BYST was officially launched in 1992 by Prince Charles and expanded its operations to six major regions of India.

Out of these six regions, four — Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad — run the urban programme while two regions — Haryana and Maharashtra — run the rural programme.(IANS)