The tea garden community of Assam will now be recognized as Scheduled Tribes, and the Adivasi community will be in a separate sub-category withing the Other Backward Classes (OBC), the state budget for the 2023-24 financial year announced on Thursday.
Along with this, they will get around 3 per cent reservation in government jobs within the OBC quota, subject to fulfilling legal stipulations. This comes as the tea garden community has been pressing for their recognition as STs in the state.
Moreover, this year’s budget announced extension of the Assam Agriculture income tax exemption and incentives under the Assam tea industry special incentive scheme (ATISIS).
Assam Budget’s announcements in the tea sector
The Budget also proposed an extension of tax holiday on Agricultural Income Tax for a period of next three years. It also mentioned that emphasis shall be given on the infrastructure development of tea garden labour lines, especially the development of roads.
While presenting the budget, Assam Finance Minister Ajanta Nego said that as a special relief the arrear electricity dues of tea garden worker families living in the lines will be waived off as a one-time measure by the Government and Rs 150 is being earmarked for the same.
Under “Wage Compensation Scheme for Pregnant Women of Tea Garden Areas of Assam”, the compensation amount will be enhanced to Rs 15,000 from the existing Rs 2,000.
There will be a construction of 500 new Mahaprabhu Jagannath Community Hall cum Skill Centres in prominent localities of tea gardens.
Under Mukhya Mantri Awaas Yojana, 10,000 houses will be constructed in Tea Garden labour lines only.
Nego added that the Government will continue supporting Assam Tea Corporation Limited (ATCL) against the payment of outstanding liabilities of interest on Provident Fund in a phased manner, keeping in mind greater interest of ATCL workers.
These were hailed by the Tea Association of India (TAI).”TAI lauds the proposal to hold road shows all over India, to promote Assam tea, as part of the 200 years celebration of Assam tea, would be of immense benefit to the Assam tea Industry,” Dipanjal Deka, Secretary Tea Association of India Assam Chapter said.
Subsidies for Orthodox tea
In another important announcement, an enhanced production subsidy of Rs 12 per kg on the production of Orthodox tea was also declared.
“As promised, increase in the production subsidy for orthodox and specialty tea from rupees seven to rupees ten per kg is already under process. However, celebrating the 200 years of Assam Tea, I am pleased to announce that for the current year of 2023-24 only, an enhanced production subsidy of Rs 12 per kg will be extended. Rupees 100 crore has been earmarked for this scheme,” Nego said in the budget allocation.
“We are extremely happy at the decision by the Govt of Assam to celebrate 200 glorious years of Assam Tea in a grand manner. Branding and promotion of Assam is the need of the day for increasing the per capita consumption of tea. It is a healthy decision to organize road shows in major cities across the country as well as abroad to promote Assam Tea as a brand and showcase the rich socio-cultural heritage of tea garden communities,” Bidyananda Barkakoty Adviser, North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) said.
“Strengthening of Assam Tea Industries Special Incentives Scheme (ATISIS), 2020 and increasing the Orthodox Subsidy to Rs 12 per kg coinciding with 200 years of Assam Tea is good gesture. In fact Orthodox Tea is the King of Assam Tea. We are grateful to Chief Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma and Finance Minister Smt Ajanta Nego for extension of tax holiday on Agricultural Income Tax for a period of next three years and also extending many other schemes and facilities to the tea garden workers” added Bidyananda Barakotoky.
Assam’s tea sector
For nearly two centuries, tea sector has been a backbone of the Assamese economy. Tea constitutes close to 90 percent of the state’s exports and a substantial part of Assam’s population depends on tea.
Assam Government wishes to celebrate 200 years of Assam tea, which coincides with year 2023, in a grand manner.
The government in its budget has propose to organize road shows in major cities across the country as well as abroad to promote Assam Tea as a brand and showcase the rich socio-cultural heritage of tea garden communities.
Tea in Budget 2022-23
In the previous budget the Assam government had proposed the continuation of tax exemption on green tea leaves for three years and incentives for orthodox production for one more year.
It also proposed infrastructure development support for tea tourism, besides various measures for improving educational and other facilities for tea tribe workers and their families.
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