The tea production in Assam’s Barak Valley has been hampered by the irregular supply of coal from Meghalaya. Coal is one of the only sources of fuel for manufacturing tea in Barak Valley as said by Sorodindu Bhattacharjee, secretary of the Barak Valley branch of the Tea Association of India (TAI). The industry is primarily dependent on its supply from neighboring Meghalaya and the landing cost varies from Rs 8,000 to Rs 9,000 per metric tonne. Barak Valley has around 101 tea gardens and produces about 50 million kg of tea per annum.
Bhattacharjee said, “Unfortunately, the supply has been stopped owing to the ban imposed on mining and transportation of coal in Meghalaya by the National Green Tribunal.”
As per the Supreme Court orders, it has recently allowed the transportation of already extracted and stored coal from Meghalaya. The deadline of transportation of such coal was January 31. On this Bhattacharjee stated that the order had brought a ray of hope for the crisis-ridden tea industry of Barak Valley.
Bhattacharjee said the Meghalaya government has appointed two licensees for the issue of permit for transportation and the rate for transportation of per coal-laden truck is around Rs 9,270. Whereas licensee or middleman engaged are asking for Rs 75,000 to Rs 80,000 for a permit to transport a truck, which is illegal and uneconomical for the industry.
Bhattacharjee alleged that the transporters and sealers carrying coal from Guwahati, Margherita or other places with goods and services tax papers are being harassed for unknown reasons and this is also discouraging them to transport coal. He mentioned that, “Under the prevailing situation, if the tea gardens cannot manage to store coal for the new season, the garden factories will come to a halt suspending cultivation, harvesting and manufacturing process, which will adversely affect the economy as a whole as well as put thousands of tea garden workers at risk.”