Kolkata: The Tea Board, which was set up by the government under the commerce ministry to regulate the tea industry, now faces an uncertain future, its chairman P.K. Bezboruah said.

The central government, he said, is mulling various options, including that of merging the Tea Board, Coffee Board and Spices Board into one. “The thinking at the highest level of the government is that the importance of these autonomous entities has decreased," he said at the annual general meeting of the Tea Association of India (TAI) in Kolkata on Tuesday.

The Tea Board can never be considered now as the “saviour of the industry", Bezboruah said. Despite this, he said that the board was still playing an important role for the benefit of the industry. Bezboruah, who is the non-executive chairman of Tea Board and himself a planter, said the government was diluting the role of the organisation by appointing two successive deputy chairmen from non-tea growing states.

The Tea Board chairman was earlier entrusted with an executive role. Now, the chairman is an industry person and the deputy chairman, usually an IAS officer, is vested with all the executive functions. “We have seen that the usual practice was that of appointing the chief executive of Tea Board either from the tea growing states of West Bengal and Assam," he said. But on the last two occasions, the chief executive (deputy chairman), also IAS officers, have been selected from non-tea growing areas, Bezboruah added.

This, he said, showed clear signs of the government’s thinking process regarding the Tea Board. He also criticised the board for over-regulating the tea industry. Bezboruah later told PTI that the finance ministry had also drastically cut the allocation for three fiscal years starting from 2016-17. Tea Board had sought Rs800 crore, but was given only Rs540 crore, he added.

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