Gorkha unrest cuts, tears & curls Darjeeling crop

Demand for Gorkhaland state leads to losses of Rs 4 crore per day across 87 estates
KOLKATA: Dhanraj Thapa, Biresh Bahadur, Rohit Gurung and Sonali Pawn are among the 80,000 labourers working in the 87 lush tea estates across Darjeeling.
But their livelihood has taken a backseat to their need for a separate Gorkhaland state. Their demand has hit the world’s ‘muscatel-flavoured finest teas’ hard. In the last few days, Darjeeling’s tea industry has suffered badly due to the agitation, losing an estimated Rs 4 crore a day.
Making matters worse is the fact that the best of Darjeeling-summer and second-flush tea —are produced in June. They command high prices in both domestic and global markets and comprise almost 25-30% of the total production of Darjeeling tea, 90% of which is exported.
Planters across Darjeeling, Dooars and the entire North Bengal belt, which churns out about 25% of the total tea produced in India, are a worried lot.
A planter from Darjeeling, who did not wish to be named, said the call for indefinite closure has sparked panic. “There seems to be no solution in sight. We anticipate huge losses… We are at the mercy of the government.”
Industry estimates say the Darjeeling tea industry would lose 25% of its best produce and 40-45% of revenues because of the current strife.
Ashok Lohia, chairman of Chamong Group, the largest planter in Darjeeling owning 14 gardens, finds the situation untenable. “Business is badly hit. Indefinite closure of the district means dispatches would be impossible. There would be no rations and we can’t send samples to auctions.”(DNA)


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