Dissent Over Proposed New Tea Law; Trade Unions Want Govt To Discuss Issues With Stakeholders

New Delhi: Three agricultural laws, which were passed in September 2020, led to a year-long protest by farmers who finally forced the Central government to repeal them.

Now, similar dissent is being expressed against the government for its move to replace the Tea Act of 1953. Lakhs of workers and other stakeholders in the tea business are extremely apprehensive about their future if the new law comes into force, OWSA reported.

The last date for recording public response to the draft Tea (Development and Promotion) Bill, 2022, was January 21, after the Ministry of Commerce and Industry opened an 11-day window.

Representatives of tea workers and trade unions were not asked to give their suggestions with regard to the draft bill.

Ten trade unions wrote to the Ministry on the last day of recording public response, asking them “not to take any unilateral move without appropriately addressing concerns” of key stakeholders of the tea industry, like workers, tea estates and gardens. They have asked for an extension of deadline to record public response and also demanded that the government should discuss provisions of the bill with all stakeholders.

OWSA quoted a trade union leader as saying that the new law has disturbing elements, a la controversial farm laws. Specifically, the provision to put an end to the regulatory role of Tea Board is being seen with mistrust.

The trade unions have pointed out the exclusion of Chapter 3 (Control over the extension of tea cultivation) and Chapter 4 (Control over the export of tea and tea seed) of the Tea Act, 1953 in the draft Bill. This is a ploy to make over 4.2 lakh hectares of land available for unrestricted commercial use, the trade unions have written.

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