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Tea industry irked as govt demands pollution control fees
Kolkata/ Guwahati, Jul 4 (Agencies):
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Published on 4 Jul. 2011 12:21 AM IST
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The Assam government classifying tea industry under ‘orange’ category and asking them to pay pollution control fees for 10 years at lump-sum has irked the industry. It has demanded reconsideration of the government’s decision.
As per the Assam industrial policy 2008, which was announced in 2009, the state government classified all industries in the Assam under four categories, viz.; non-polluting, green, orange and red for obtaining faster pollution clearances and formalities. The ‘non-polluting’ ones need not obtain any clearance, while the ‘green’ ones just need to inform the pollution control board of its projects. The ‘orange’ and ‘red’ ones need to obtain clearances.
The tea industry is of the view that the state government first hiked the fees for “consent to establish” and “consent to operate and renewal” of tea gardens, which are levied by the Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA), by almost 10 times around 10 years back. Since then, the tea industry has been paying these fees annually and had been demanding a roll-back. Now, post-categorisation of tea industry as ‘orange’, the government, citing the new industrial policy, has directed the tea estates of the state to make an one-time advance payment of 10 years’ fees of PCBA.
“Notwithstanding our demand for a rollback of a stiff 10 times hike in pollution control fees, the government now wants us to pay 10 years’ fees one at a time. Just imagine if a garden’s annual pollution fees stands at Rs. 1 lakh, that would mean it has to pay Rs. 10 lakh at a time. Isn’t it a joke,” said Dipanjol Deka, secretary of Tea Association of India (TAI) to Business Standard.
Deka has demanded that the status-quo be maintained by the state government and let the tea industry pay those fees of PCBA annually as it has been doing for years. He feels such “unjustified” decisions of the state government would “unduly” burden the tea industry which just recently came out of a decade-long recession. In a letter to the principal secretary, finance, government of Assam, Deka said: “A tea estate comprises of plantation, which is purely an agricultural activity and the processing of green tea leaves is also the least polluting. It helps in maintaining ecological balance and therefore should be a preferred vehicle for ensuring sustainable ecological development. Tea industry should not be burdened with such unjustifiable levy that too for pollution control just merely for revenue generation.”
TAI has also requested the Assam government to reintroduce an amnesty scheme for tea companies, which are suffering from adverse cash flow, by waiving interest and penalty so as to enable them to liquidate their past accumulated dues on account of state taxes and levies in easy instalments.
“Many tea companies based in the state are suffering from adverse cash flow owing to accumulated losses and liabilities emanating from the great recession in the tea industry spanning nearly a decade. Many tea companies, therefore, could not dispose of their past liabilities on account of land revenue cess and such state taxes,” said Deka in his letter to the state government.
The tea industry is also disappointed for the fact that despite it making several requests before the state government for reduction in green leaf cess, the government was rather acting adversely. The present green leaf cess of 40 paise and 35 paise for Brahmaputra valley and Barak valley respectively, said Deka, were nowhere close to the prevailing rate in the neighbouring state of West Bengal where it was just 12 paise.

 
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