Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Apr 11, 2003
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Corporate - Sick Units
Orissa tea estate facing closure
KOLKATA, April 10
AFTER successfully pioneering tea plantation in the degraded forest lands of Orissa, it was clear that the Bhuyanpirh Tea Estate of Orissa Tea Plantations Ltd (OTPL) had the potential to serve quite a few good causes.
Among other things, it could have been a successful tribal welfare project. It could have created the winning government-private partnership formula. It could have attracted fresh investments in Orissa's nascent tea sector.
However, it has not been able to achieve any of the above because the tea estate is on the verge of extinction because of severe drought, trade union militancy, acute fund shortage and indifference of top-level bureaucrats towards the project.
OTPL was created in 1982 as a joint sector company between the Orissa Government and TM&MC Ltd, the private sector partner. Initially, the plantation was spread over 200 hectares and the company was successful in registering a record yield of 27 kg per ha.
It directly employed over 200 tribals and a few hundreds indirectly.
The State Government holds 14.4 per cent stake through Industrial Promotion & Investment Corporation of Orissa Ltd (Ipicol). TM&MC holds 14 per cent stake, the rest being held by the public through an extensive private placement programme.
The first invoice from Bhuyanpirh tea estate was sold at Rs 202 per kg in 1988, creating a record of sorts. However, with the passage of time the problems kept piling up. It all started with a drought in 1989 followed by trade union militancy and bankers' delay in releasing funds.
Currently, out of the 200-odd ha, the plantation has shrunk to about 100 ha and even within this area 40 per cent of the bushes have perished. OTPL's accumulated losses on March 31, 2003 is more than Rs 14 crore. It owes more than Rs 12 crore to different organisations, including the tea board.
The Tea Research Academy has conducted an on-site survey and has opined that the estate can be revived provided it supports a small-tea- growers scheme on its outskirts involving the local tribals.
As a stakeholder, the State Government was supposed to invest just Rs 70 lakh. The tea board had drawn up schemes to support such a programme. However, industry sources said, the State Government did not take the initiative.
The Orissa Government's Industry Secretary, Mr S.P. Nanda, was contacted by Business Line but his secretary said that the issue should be discussed with Mr Asit Tripathi, Managing Director of Ipicol.
Talking to Business Line from his residence, Mr Tripathi, who was indisposed, said he would be able to comment on the matter but only after "going through the file'' on Tuesday.
Mr R.N. Das, OTPL Chairman, agreed that fresh investments of a `few lakhs' could rejuvenate the company. He was also open to a sell-out of the company. "If anyone wishes to run OTPL he is welcome but he will have to settle the matter with the existing promoters first,'' Mr Das said.
Of the existing promoters, Mr Basant Dube, is a director of TM&MC. A tea expert, he conceptualised the project of growing tea in Orissa along with Mr L.I. Parija, a former Chief Secretary of the State.
"I have written to everyone for the revival of OTPL. It is necessary for the upliftment of the local tribals who are suffering for so many years,'' Mr Dube said.
Last month, Mr Parija resigned from OTPL's board saying that he found "little enthusiasm on the part of the concerned government officers'' for the project's success. He felt his erstwhile colleagues had failed to realise the benefits which "accrued to the tribals around the tea garden''.
Meanwhile, Mr L.V. Saptarishi, additional Union Commerce Secretary, has intervened in the matter and has sought a detailed report on the Bhuyanpirh Tea Estate.
Stories in this Section
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Home |
Copyright © 2003, The
Hindu Business Line. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of
The Hindu Business Line