Ooty: Ahead of the April 18 Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu, it is issues related to dismally low tea prices for Green Tea Leaf (GTL) and lack of industrial growth that appear to be the dominant ones for political parties to crack in Nilgiris district.
The Nilgiris (Reserved) constituency is unique as three Assembly segments from Nilgiris and three assembly segments in neighboring districts in the plains constitute the Nilgiris Lok Sabha seat,
As far as the hill segments are concerned, it is certainly the tea issue that is a dominating factor.
There are about 60,000 small tea growers (STG) in Nilgiris who constitute the bulk of farming community in the hills. The STG had been asking for ruminative price for green tea leaf (GTL) which they cultivate and supply to tea processing factories. Nearly four-kg of GTL is used to make one-kg of made tea or black tea by the tea factories. While the made tea is auctioned by the factories between Rs100 and Rs 200 per kg in the market, the STG gets around Rs 10 per kg of GTL.
Since the Assembly elections in 2001, the tea price issue had been the principal poll plank in successive elections. It is also a fact that successive governments since then have failed to find solution to this issue.
Though the procurement price for GTL was good till 1999, things began to change amid widespread unrest amongst the STGs’ as tea price hit a new low of around `10 per kg of GTL.
The STGs’ had asked for evolving some kind of mechanisms for remunerative price GTL or minimum support price for GTL. Of course, the political parties in various elections assured to take it up with the Centre as tea is a central subject, but, nothing tangible happened.
It is a known fact here that the STGS’ had been pleading for fixing `30 (Rupees thirty only) per kg of GTL as minimum support price, in tune with present day standards. But, the lawmakers from Nilgiris constituency hardly pressed this in Parliament. Still the tea price crisis woes is continuing. Now with the announcement of the Lok Sabha poll, some political parties have already begun to touch on this subject to woo the voters as this is a major issue in Nilgiris.
Another key issue is lack of industrial growth in Nilgiris. The Hindustan Photo Films (HPF) manufacturing industry here which was providing jobs, directly and indirectly to around 5,000 people for over five decades, is closed now. Though the infrastructure is still available there, successive governments failed to take alternative measures to sustain industrial growth there. While a couple of other private industries which had been closed in recent times failed to revive, employment opportunities is on the wane in Nilgiris....