Tea Industries :-
          The history of the tea industry in Assam dates back to the year 1826, when indigenous tea plants growing in the plains of Assam came to the notice of the East India Company. The cultivation of this plant in the State was first introduced in the thirties by the East India Company's Administration. A tea garden was started by the Government in 1833 in erstwhile Lakhimpur district. With the arrival in London of the fine quality tea from this garden in 1938,the commercial circle of the city took a keen interest in tea plantations in Assam and a company known as the Assam Company was formed in 1839 to take over the experimental holdings of the Easy India Company's Administration over the tea gardens established in Assam till then. This was the first company in India to undertake the commercial production of tea and was,in fact,the direct successor of the East India Company. A site was  cleared from the jungle at Nazira which became and remained as the headquarters of this company until it was shifted to Calcutta in 1965. The official incorporation of this Company was effected in 1845. This company,however,did not attain much prosperity during the first ten years of its existence. By about 1852,under the management of George Williamson,one of the great pioneers in tea garden management,its condition began to improve and its success made the prospect of the industry so promising and attractive that speculators egarly rushed to it . In 1859,the second important tea company,the Jorhat Tea Company was formed. To encourage tea plantation in the province,the Government also made liberal provisions for the settlement of the waste land for tea cultivation. In the early sixties,many provisions of the former waste Land Settlement Rules were waived. Between 1860 and 1865,the industry was the object of wild speculation. Then came the collapse in 1866,when all tea properties depreciated and all the babble concerns burst. So severe was the situation that a Government Commission of Enquiry had to be appointed. It reported that the industry was basically sound, and by 1870-71 public confidence was restored and development continued on sounder basis. In 1879,further slump occurred following the boom in prices due to a false rumour of shortage of exports from China. Though condition improved after three years,another slump occurred for a period between 1893 and 1906 because of over-production. The industry did not recapture its expansion mood again in the present century. On the other hand,great improvements have been made in the yield per acre under tea,in the grouping of gardens under a limited number of companies,in the progressive mechanisation and rationalisation of production and in increasing their efficiency in regard to the productivity of labour.
    In 1911,the Toklai Research Station was established near Jorhat with a view to carrying on research on cultivation and manufacture of tea. This Research Station has been very useful in disseminating knowledge for the increase of yield for the industry on sounder basis. The tea industry faced another crisis during the First World War due mainly to the release of tea stocks built up during the was years by the British Government,and the consequent fall in prices. At the suggestion of the Indian Tea Association,the tea gardens in Assam stopped plucking on 15 November,1923 to decrease the output in order to improve the price structure. Up to 1927 an era of prosperity followed,during which modernisation of factories and production techniques made rapid strides. The industry again faced an acute crisis during the early thirties. This crisis was successfully averted by enacting the Indian Tea Control Act,1933,and instituting an International Tea Committee and Indian Tea Licensing Committee. During the World war 11,the industry again passed through a boom period and after 1951 it reached an unprecedented prosperity. Then followed a severe crisis in 1952 when prices of tea crashed to an extent often below the cost of production. Among the manifold causes suggested as being responsible for the recession in tea prices,The most potent ones seemed to be over production in competing countries,a glut in medium and indifferent grades of tea which could not attract a ready market owing to the cessation of the bulk purchase system in the United Kingdom,and the impact of the general downward trend in the commodity prices during the post-Korean slum of late 1951 and early 1952. Conditions improved considerably in the following year and since then the tea industry has been enjoying a satisfactory position,although it faced some difficulty due to severe drought in 1960.

    The Opening of Tea Auction Centre at Guwahati on 25th Sept.1970,augurs a new era for the tea industry of Assam. Marketing of tea has always been a problem for the products of this region. Previously the Tea Auction Centre at Calcutta was the only centre of sale for Assam Tea. The imposition of West Bengal Entry Tax on Assam Tea,transport bottlenecks and many more difficulties involved in arranging the sale at Calcutta Auction centre,necessitated the opening of the Tea Auction Centre in Assam which produces the bulk of it.

    Both in acreage and output the tea industry in Assam expanded very rapidly upto the 1920%'s. But the increase of acreage slowed down considerably thereafter, though output continued to increased rapidly owing to a high yield per acre. The Toklai Experimental Station has been helping the tea estates to increase their yields by improved techniques and cultivation and by control of diseases and pests affecting the plants. The coarser plucking,since the Second World war,has also contributed greatly to the higher yield per acre.
   Only about one quarter of the total area of the tea estates is actually planted with tea. Even admitting that some portion of the garden land had been utilised or reserved for other purposes,eg.,far factories,quarters for employees,future expansion,forests.etc.,and that some portion is unsuitable for plantation or other cultivation,large tracts or waste land are still available in the tea estates. Some portion of this waste land might be devoted to cultivation of other crops like paddy,wheat,cotton,hemp and medicinal herbs.
    From the very beginning of tea plantation in Assam,the planters have faced great difficulties in securing the necessary labour force. The experiment with immigrant Chinese labour in the early days proved a complete failure due to the high cost of requirement and maintenance and to the difficulties in their management. Local labourers were not available in sufficient number. There was also the risk of their desertion. It thus became necessary to bring labourers from other parts of India in large number to cope up with the expansion of the tea plantations in Assam. As a result of continuous inflow of immigrant labourers,there are now large number of tea garden labourers in the tea producing regions of the State. Some of the labourers have settled down in the farm lands near the tea gardens. After the expiry of the term of their contract,many of them have taken up ordinary cultivation. The tea acreage has not increased proportionately to the increase in the number of tea garden labourers and as a result it has no longer been possible to give employment to all the labour force in the garden areas. There is thus a large surplus of labour in the tea areas of Assam. These labour can be utilised in food-crop,fibre and medicinal plant production.
    Among the Indian States,Assam has the largest acreage under tea,producing the highest quantity and employing the highest number of labourers.
    Following tables give various data on tea industry of the State.25 


                AREA AND PRODUCTION OF TEA IN ASSAM

Year No.of tea
estates
Area in
hectares 
  Total
Production
in thousand
kg.
Average yield
per hectare
in kg.
Daily aver-
age no.of
labour
employed.   

  1951            785             155.674            150.370                     ….                          ….
  1961            744             162,367            182,311                      ….                         ….
  1968            758             176,812            202,614                   1,146                     388,842
  1969            758             179,417            204,738                   1,141                     386,351
  1970            751             180,065            212,027                   1,178                     394,410
  1971            750             182,325            223,665                   1,127                     397,370
  1972            751             184,244            139,206                   1,298                     396,316
  1973            751             185,113            251,825                   1,360                     398,725
  1974            754             187,408           265,281                    1,416                     401,169
  1975            756             188,794           263,055                    1,393                     402,000
  1976(P)        N.A.            189,338          276,308                    1,459                      …........
  1980            777              2,00,569         300,700                    1,499                     448,949    
  1984            808              2,14,741         338,533                    1,576                     474,851
  1988            848              2,27,517         369,428                    1,624                     527,848
  1989            848              2,29,428         379,855                    1,656                     544,291
  1990            848              2,30,363         388,181                    1,685                     541,661
  1991            848              2,33,284         396,605                    1,700                     554,536
                                                       
    As can be seen from the above table,the number of tea gardens,total production and area in hectares have shown an upward trend since 1961. In fact,the tea industry of Assam has contributed greatly to the foreign exchange earnings of India,apart from being the major supplier of tea in the domestic market of the country.

         


     Tea being a commodity which is subject to direct taxation by way of excise duty,export duty and cess under Tea  Act,the industry makes substantial direct contribution to Central Income Tax,Super Tax (Corporation Tax)and Agricultural Income Tax. The Agricultural Income Tax along with Sales Tax levied upon the tea industry inflates the income of the State Government to a very great extent.

    Tea is the mainstay of the plywood industry and a big buyer of fertilizers. It is also a very important rate payer which pays heavy freight charges of the transport organisations. Te industry has also played a very valuable part in opening up and developing areas which were previously inaccessible jungles and forests. The areas retrieved and developed into flourishing tea gardens were not areas where food gains could ordinarily be grown and as such there is no problem of competition between this crop and any other food crop. The importance of the industry in the social structure is also noteworthy due to its both direct and indirect employment giving labour intensive aspects. Agricultural in nature,the tea industry needs the application of modern scientific way of cultivation. A single unit of the tea estate has to accomplish all the process right from seedling ti final packing of the manufactured tea.

    The Guwahati Tea Auction Centre has successfully completed 25 years of its existence. It is remarkable that in respect of CTC (Crush Tear and Curl)tea,the GTAC has earned the distinction of being the world's largest tea auction centre. When all types of tea are considered,the GTAC is the world's second largest tea auction centre,the first being Colombo. However,only 38 per cent of total tea produced in Assam is routed through the GTAC.

    Assam has 848 tea estates both high and small,and most of them are in Sibsagar district. Tea cultivation covers an area of 2.34 lakh hectares in Assam. With an annual production of about 396 million kilogram of tea,the tea industry employ 11 lakh workers. The Government of Assam collects the highest amount of Agricultural income tax from the tea industry. The Government collects Rs.12 crores as sales tax the GTAC annually.

    Paper Industry : Assam having the richest bamboo resources of the country offered good scope for development of paper industry in the State. So at first,the State Government issued licences to private companies to set up paper mills in Assam. But due to various reasons,they did not come forward and the licences remained unutilised. The State Government had,therefore,to review the position and decided to associate with the Bihar Government in revitalising the almost liquidated Ashok Paper Mills Ltd.owned by Maharaja of Darbhanga and set up the same at Jogighopa in Assam.
           The foundation stone of the Jigighpopa unit was laid by the Prime Minister of India in October,1970 with loans received from IFCI,ICICI and LIC. With some of the machinery brought from the Darbhanga unit of the company together with some new machinery,the Jogighopa unit was set up and production was started. The total cost of this paper mill was Rs.31 crores. It has a capacity of producing 100 tonnes of pulp and 90 tonnes of paper per day. At present,the production of this mill has been stopped as it becomes sick.

    In order to ensure steady supply of bamboo the company has taken up a programme of man-made bamboo forests in the hilly areas of the State particularly around Jogighopa.

    In addition to this mill,the Hindustan Paper Corporation of India (Government of India undertaking)set up two paper mills in Assam each with a capacity of 1,00,000 tonnes of writing and printing paper per annum one at Jagiroad in Marigaon district and the other in Cachar district.

    A new  project,Industrial Papers (Assam)Ltd.is being completed at Dihing. The number of new units under forest-based industries has increased from 332,to 353. However,the mid-term appraisal of the Eight Five Year (1992-97)plan of Assam shows that there has been a decline in production of paper by 5 per cent in 1993 as compared to the 1992 figure. Efforts are underway to revive the sick and closed Ashok Paper Mill.

    Caustic Soda and Chlorine Plant : Important processing chemicals required for paper making are caustic and chloride. These chemicals are also required by other industries of the State. But with the coming of the Ashok Paper Mills Ltd.,the question of these chemicals assumed greater importance. As such,essentially to meet the requirement of these chemicals for Ashok Paper Mills a captive unit was set up adjacent to the paper mill site. This unit had a capacity of producing 25 tonnes of caustic soda and little over 22 tonnes of chlorine per day.

    The Hindustan Paper Corporation which has set up two paper mills in Assam also set up caustic soda and chlorine plant for each of these two paper mills. Each of these units has capacity for producing 16,500 tonnes of caustic soda,15,000 tonnes of chlorine and 330 tonnes of Hydrochloric Acid (100%) per annum.

    India Carbon Ltd : India Carbon Ltd.'s Petroleum Coke Calcination plant was set up in collaboration with M/S Great Lakes Carbon Corporation of U.S.A.

    Foundation stone of the plant was laid on 4th December,1961. The creation work was completed in a record time of 11 months and the plant went into production by November,1962. With the establishment of this Calcination plant at Guwahati,India Carbon became the pioneer in manufacturing carbon in India by producing petroleum coke,the purest electrocarbon.

    Petroleum coke,a by-product of oil refining is the primary material used by the light metal producers. It is the primary ingredient in the manufacture of anodes,cathodes and thermic eloctrodes as well as other carbon and graphite products.

    Calcined petroleum coke is used mainly by manufacturers of aluminium,titanium, magnesium, steel and ferro alloys,producers of calcium carbide and silicon carbide and other manufacturers of carbon and graphite products.

    There are only three refineries in India Producing raw petroleum coke,which is the vital raw material for calcined petroleum coke. They are (a)Indian Oil Corporation Ltd.,Guwahati, (b)Indian Oil Corporation Ltd.,Barauni and (c)Assam Oil Co.Ltd.,Digboi.

    Before setting up of this plant,this material was being imported from abroad mainly U.S.A.,and by producing this material at Guwahati,the foreign exchange that was being spent on import of calcined petroleum coke is now saved.

    Assam Carbon Limited :In 1962,three entrepreneurs got together to set up the second carbon factory at Guwahati to produce metallic and hard carbon grades of carbon blocks and electrical carbon brushes mainly for automobiles,D.C.motors and sliprings. The company after collecting complicated details about the industry,finalised the project and the unit came into being in the year 1963. The unit had,however,to pass through several initial difficulties. But in the year 1966,the unit could produce some grades of M.G. Carbon Blocks which could well be compared with those produced in an industrially advanced country. By 1967,the company was producing almost the full range of metallic carbon blocks,some grades of silver graphite carbon blocks and almost all varieties,types and qualities of carbon brushes. The company was converted into a Public Limited Company in 1963. The second unit to manufacture electrographiatised and resin bonded carbon blocks,was set up in collaboration with Morganite Carbon limited of U.K. In 1974. The company has covered the entire range of carbon blocks and carbon brushes for all applications.
     
    Assam Petro-Chemicals Ltd :In order to utilise natural gas of Assam's oil fields in manufacture of methanol,formalin,U.F.adhesive and U.F.moulding  powder,etc., the Assam Industrial Development Corporation drew up a scheme for petrochemical industry in Assam and obtained an industrial licence from the Government of India in February,1971. The foundation stone of this concern was laid at Namrup on the 15th June,1971. The project was sanctioned for an installed capacity of 7,000 metric tonnes of methanol,12,000 metric tonnes of formalin,13,500 metric tonnes of U.F.adhesive and 1,000 metric tonnes of U.F.moulding powder per annum. The total investment estimated for the project was Rs.1200 lakhs. The project has already started production and provided employment to nearly 350 persons with a potential for further employment of 700 persons.
    The project was implemented in collaboration with a Japanese consortium. M/s Japan Gas-Chemical Company Inc.,Tokyo,Japan,provided technical assistance and supervision during erection and commissioning and project engineering. The detailed engineering of imported machinery,inspection,procurement of machinery and materials from Japan was accomplished through two other Japanese firms. The plants were designed on the basis of the processes of M/s Japan Gas-Chemical Company,Inc.,Tokyo,M/s Industrial Consulting Bureau Pt.Ltd.,Bombay,was entrusted with the task of working out detailed design and engineering of the indigenous equipments including supervision during erection and commissioning of the plants.
    As indicate above ,the unit produces important raw materials like U.F.adhesive for the plywood industry in the State and with the U.F.moulding powder,a number of subsidiary industries will come up in the State.
    Fertichem Ltd : In order to meet the requirement of mixed fertilizer in the State,the Assam Industrial Development Corporation set up a unit for production of NPX mixed granulated fertilizer at Narangi with produc-tion capacity of 200 metric tonnes per day. The unit was commissioned in September,1974 and had been set up with an investment of Rs.72.00 lakhs. It provides employment to about 100 people.


    Safety Matches and Splints : The first attempt at manufacture of safety matches in the small scale industry in the State was made in 1912 at Sibsagar in the name and style of Rampur Match Factory. But the unit was closed down soon after its birth. The second and biggest attempt was the Brahmaputra Match Factory at Jorhat,which was also closed down almost at its very start. The reason for the failure was perhaps the high cost of production and non-availability of abundant suitable timber near about.
    But in 1924,abundance of simul timber in Goalpara,Kamrup and Nagaon and imposition of import duty on safety matches by the Government of India,prompted a Swedish Company to form the Assam Match company and set up a match factory at Dhubri. By the end of the second phase this factory was
 able to produce about 42,000 cases of matches. As a result of expansion carried out by this factory during the late sixties it is now able to produce more than 95,000 cases a year. It provides employment to nearly 150 persons. The Assam Match Company has since been taken over by the Western India Match Company Ltd.
    There is also a small match factory at Karimganj with a capacity of 80,000 gross match boxes per annum. It provides employment to about 50 per-sons.
    In addition to this,a small match splint factory was set up by the Indus-tries Department at Bijni in the year 1963. The unit had to face several difficulties during the initial years. It was later taken over by the A.I.D.C. To run the same in a commercial manner. This unit has been able to overcome the initial difficulties and is now running smoothly. The capacity of the unit is 80 million  splints per day. The product of this unit is now being taken by the Western India Match Company of Dhubri and is also being sent to Tamilnadu,Orissa and Tripura. The unit provides employment to about 40 persons.

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25.     (i) Tea Statistics, 1974-75.
    (ii)Statistical Abstract, Assam, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Govt, Govt.of Assam, 1978, p.154.
    (iii)Statistical Hand Book, Assam. 1978,p.154.
    (iv) Ibid, 1988,p.131.
    (v) Ibid, 1995,p. 129.