PALAMPUR: The large scale sale of tea gardens in Kangra valley has virtually become a big scam, it has posed a threat for the existence of tea industry. The back door sale of tea garden in connivance with revenue officials is going on unchecked and it has caused a huge loss to the state exchequer.
Today the Tea Industry of Kangra valley is on the verge of extinction as most of the tea gardens in the valley are being sold to the big industrial house of adjoining states and Tibetans who are converting these tea estates into concrete jungles. One wonders how the state government is granting permission for the sale of big holdings of tea lands day after day, despite the fact that there is complete ban on sale of tea garden in the valley. Besides, those tea garden owners who had availed the benefit under HP Land Sealing Act cannot sell their holdings as they were allowed to retain excess land, as per law they are the custodians of these lands under tea and state government is a owner. Section 7 of the Act prohibit the sale of tea garden in such cases.
Tea is cultivated and manufactured in the valley since the middle of 19th century. It was first introduced between 1830 and 1840 by a Nissan Tea Company. The valley grows hybrid variety of China tea which has the best flavor and compares favorably with the tea grown in other parts of the world. The tea gardens of Kangra valley are 100 to 130 years old and situated at the height of 900 to 1500 meters above the sea level.
The recent decision of Himachal Pradesh Government to grant permission for the sale of 700 kanals of tea gardens to private party have caused wide spread resentment among the residents here. Earlier the congress government had also allowed sale of 500 kanal of tea garden to the Tibetans. In many cases the land under tea garden was sold without the permission of state government. Tea growers in the valley are worried that if all the big holdings of land under tea is continued to be disposed off in this way, tomorrow there would be no land under tea in the region. Instead of providing incentives for development of tea industry in the valley government was reducing the land under tea year after year merely to please the party men. It is also revealed that state government was likely to grant permission for sales of one dozen more tea gardens in the valley after parliament elections as these cases are awaiting sanction from Chief Minister Office and revenue department.