Hundreds of tea growers and allied workers in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris district, whose livelihoods had been marred by the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, have received a helping hand from the Kerala government. Amid the Covid-19 crisis, the Kerala government has placed a massive 1250-ton order of tea for distribution in the state as part of its essential supplies kit to ration card holders.
To meet the huge order, INDCOSERVE, India’s largest tea cooperative federation, got its 16 factories up and running for 20 days to churn out 50 lakh packets of its branded ‘Moutain Rose’ tea.
In a statement, the federation said it utlised 15,200 man hours on war footing to complete the task. At the end, 125 trucks packed with tea climbed down the Nilgiris to make their way to 51 depots of the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (SupplyCo).
Taking into account the crisis faced by the tea growers, the Tamil Nadu government gave exemptions to operate the factories. Social distancing measures were followed and the staff were provided with safety equipment such as masks, gloves and hand-sanitisers. The factories were run with 50 per cent of the staff.
INDOSERVE managing director Supriya Sahu said, “The lockdown period was one where there could have been major repercussions for those working in tea plantations. But not only have we been able to dispel such a situation, we have been successful in raising INDCOSERVE’s profits. The order by the Kerala government has helped in paying wages to small-scale tea growers.”
Transporting employees to the factories, ensuring adequate packaging materials and ensuring smooth operations of the factories were arduous at a time like this. “But we have been able to cross those hurdles,” she added. INDCOSERVE helps supply nearly 3000 tonnes of the ‘Ooty tea’ to PDS shops in Tamil Nadu every year.
Sahu, who is also the monitoring officer in-charge of Nilgiris district, said at a time like this, any government would utilise the services of companies, even if they are large-scale corporations, to supply essential products.
She underlined that Kerala’s order to INDCOSERVE helped shore up wages of small-scale cultivators and labourers. She, however, declined to specify the value of the order placed by Kerala.
Kerala has been supplying essential kits, worth nearly Rs 1000, to all APL and BPL ration-card holders in the state by allocating Rs 350 crore from the chief minister’s disaster relief funds. The kit contains 17 items, including sugar, tea, salt, green gram, black gram, coconut oil, atta, sooji, chilly powder, turmeric powder and bathing soap.