Assam Growers Object to Pollution Control Fee

GUWAHATI, Assam, India

The government of Assam is seeking a lump-sum payment equivalent to 10 years of pollution control fees from tea producers after re-classifying the industry.

The Pollution Control Board of Assam classifies polluters in four categories. Tea production was considered “green” since 2008 when the industrial pollution policy was adopted. Green level polluters need only inform the board of their projects, orange- and red-level projects must obtain clearances. The PCBA now considers tea production an “orange” level polluter.

Dipanjol Deka, secretary of the Tea Association of India (TAI), strongly protested the policy change that could cost some gardens several hundred thousand rupees (one lakh Rs. is $USD2,250).

“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,” Deka wrote in a letter to the state government.

The green leaf cess is 40 paise for Brahmaputra valley and 35 paise for Barak valley which is much higher than the 12 paise assessment in adjoining West Bengal. A paise is 100th of a rupee (currently trading at 2-cents US), making 40 paise about one cent assessment for a hectare of land.
“A tea estate comprises a plantation, which is purely an agricultural activity and the processing of green tea leaves that is also the least polluting. It helps in maintaining ecological balance and therefore should be a preferred vehicle for ensuring sustainable ecological development,” according to Deka’s letter.

“The tea industry should not be burdened with such unjustifiable levy that too for pollution control just merely for revenue generation,” Deka told the Business Standard.

TAI is also pressing for an amnesty program waiving interest and penalty for tea companies suffering from adverse cash flow “so as to enable them to liquidate their past accumulated dues on account of state taxes and levies in easy installments.”

Source: Business Standard