Skip to content

The Government Guarantees Tea Workers Land Rights

The budget extends the exemption from paying cess and agriculture tax.
Tea leaves

Around 15 lakh people reside on tea estates and many of them are living for generations. None of them has, however, any right to the land on which they stay as it has been leased out to companies by the state government to grow tea. The tea sector will continue to enjoy exemption from the payment of cess and agricultural income tax for the next two financial years.


The Trinamul Congress government will soon establish a policy to award land rights to tea garden workers, said Chandrima Bhattacharya, minister of state for finance (independent charge), in the Assembly on Wednesday as she introduced the budget for the coming fiscal.

“In light of the long-standing desire of tea garden employees for valid land documents, I am pleased to announce that my government would provide homestead ‘patta’ to eligible tea garden workers,” Bhattacharya stated in her budget speech.

Around 15 lakh people live on tea estates in north Bengal, many of whom have been there for generations. They have no right to the property on which they live because the state government has leased it to firms to grow tea.

Tea garden workers and their families account for a sizable proportion of the vote bank in three north Bengal districts: Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, and Alipurduar, as well as sections of North Dinajpur.


Government Guarantees Tea Workers Land Rights

“A large section of them had sided with the BJP in some of the recent elections. Their support will be crucial in determining the results in those districts in the upcoming panchayat elections. Furthermore, with rural polls being held in the hills for the first time in over 20 years, Trinamul and its supporters are “leaving no stone unturned” in their efforts to gain control of the tea belt’s rural bodies, according to one observer.

Because of these political factors, some statements on the long-standing demand of tea workers and their families for land rights were expected in the budget. Anit Thapa, the chief administrator of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, stated a few days ago that the administration will soon begin a census to identify the plots on which workers live in the plantations.

Bhattacharya also declared in the budget that the tea industry would continue to be exempt from paying cess and agricultural income tax for the next two fiscal years.

In the tea industry, a rural employment and primary education cess of 12 paisa is levied on each kilo of green tea leaves. The agricultural income tax, on the other hand, is levied in different slabs based on profit and amounts to at least 30% of the sale earnings of green tea leaves.

The Indian Tea Association (ITA) – the largest association of tea planters in the country — applauded the measures and labelled the budget “modern and visionary”.

“The submissions made by the ITA for prolonging the time of the exemption from the payment of cess and agricultural income tax have been heeded by the government. The tea sector is under severe financial difficulty, and the exclusions will provide some relief.

Stakeholders in the small tea sector appreciated the statements as well, but noted that the state had not developed a programme for the legalisation of their land.

According to Bijoygopal Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Associations, thousands of small tea plantations have sprouted up across north Bengal in the last 21 years, but the land’s status has not been changed in the state land and land reforms department’s records.

He said that the Left Front government established a deadline in 2001 and that any tea plantation built after that date was unlawful.

“At the time, only about 7,000 small tea growers had gotten the necessary credentials from the land and land reforms agency. There are currently over 50,000 small tea growers in the region, with the majority of their plantations having been established after the deadline. The government should develop a programme to legalise those plots. These growers cannot avail themselves of different benefits without the regularisation,” he said.

In response to the tea sector announcements, the BJP stated that the state government simply restated its commitment to workers in the budget but did not fulfil any promises.

“Real estate promoters have unlimited control over tea gardens. The government has let a group of pro-government businesses to exploit tea gardens for commercial purposes. “The government speaks of issuing homestead pattas in every budget, but there is no clarity on who will get them and how,” said SuvenduAdhikari, the Assembly’s leader of the opposition.


With approximately 3.5 million employees, the tea sector is India’s second largest employment. Women are the backbone of the workforce, accounting for more than half of all workers on plantation estates.

At Truoosh, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Truoosh may earn commission.