gorkhalandThe gold mine for the Indian tea industry – Darjeeling – has been stolen by the so-called “keepers of the hills.” They have robbed it with their own hands.   It is unfortunate and saddening to see the crippled state of the tea industry in the hills now. 

The whole world craves a good cup of Darjeeling tea, but the tea estates here are not able to generate enough money for their subsistence due to many factors which they are rightfully to be blamed for. This political fight for money – instead of statehood – is not their mistake. 

The dying tea industry is struggling to keep its head above water so they do not drown. The timing and effect of this statehood appeal is being raised by only a very few mercenaries, but it has shattered the hopes of the struggling tea industry. Although the tea estates are out of the purview of the current strike, there is no proper attendance in the tea estates which do not have the power to send teas out of the hills nor do they have permission to bring in necessary supplies.gorkhaland birthright
The situation is a mess!  The tea industry is so-called “open,” but cannot run the way it needs to due to severe shortage of working hands.  There is lack of innovation, proper marketing, and proper education on how to expand and innovate. In addition, there is also a shortage of funds to develop infrastructure and a lack of hygienic manufacturing and packing facilities.  This combination of factors has become so burdensome on the industry that it cannot find a way out. Growing only organic will not help because it comes with a price tag of years to convert, miles of hoops to jump through, and an average 30% crop reduction.  
The only hope left for this ailing industry is the development of the new model of speciality teas, where every farmer can contribute and every co-operative can produce the best teas.  These are limited quantity but very high in quality.  Every region will have their own speciality, so there will be no competition as each tea will be unique. We have to abandon the British segregation system of grades and standardization and move towards the single-tea/single region/single-farmer approach, where every grower’s production is unique and cannot be copied. 
Let us hope that this Darjeeling jewel in the crown of the world tea industry has a soft corner that remains safe. We hope to find a way to crawl out of the current scenario. 
 Images provided by the author
 Editor’s note: for over a week, protesters have all but shut down the tea industry – and all other trade – in the hills around Darjeeling.  You can access a history and timeline of the conflict here.