The Union government is threatening to transfer the management of three tea gardens in West Bengal from their owners, as they have failed to take up the initiatives to revive 33 closed gardens in the country.
An exasperated Jairam Ramesh, Union minister of state for commerce, says the government plans to invoke Section 16D of the Tea Board Act, which enables the takeover of the management of the gardens.
The three gardens, Raipur, Bandapur and Sikarpur, all located in the Jalpaiguri district, failed to actively participate in the two rounds of the meetings convened by the minister in the state as part of a drive in the past few months to put together a revival package for ailing tea gardens around the country. Tea Board chairman Basudeb Banerjee also held another three-four meetings, says G. Boriah, a director of the Tea Board. But the owners of the gardens failed to turn up at any of these meetings.
Now, the government is proposing to transfer the management (not the ownership) of the gardens to other private entities. This takeover clause, which has been sought to be invoked, can be exercised for five years and at best extended to six more years, says Boriah.
During this period, the liabilities of the gardens will be frozen and the new management will be able to raise fresh capital to develop and turn around the gardens.
At the end of the stipulated period, the owners of the gardens will have the option of clearing all the debts and other liabilities and regaining the management of the gardens.