Tea World

Lesson 30

Historical Background

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Let us have a glimpse on the early period under colonial era in Assam when tea industry became a profitable business. It is important to note that the local participation in this profitable business was very very small. Since the beginning of this industry the British Government was interested in attracting only the European capitalists to Assam and therefore, care was taken to safeguard their interest.The Waste Land Rules were also framed accordingly and there was nothing to encourage the local entrepreneurs to take up tea cultivation. Rathar, the provisions of the rules were such that it was difficult for the local people to meet the requirement. Moreover, the local people generally did not possess sufficient capital to meet the huge expenditure for tea cultivation.Therefore, very few of the Assamese people who came forward for tea cultivation could do so only with the help of the Britishers. Maniram Dewan, the first Indian tea planter who opened two small tea gardens at Chinnamara, Jorhat and Senleng could do so because he had accumulated wealth and experience of tea cultivation when he had been serving as a Dewan for the Assam Company at Nazira. Apart from him Roseshwar Barua of Jorhat, who opened about twenty-two small tea gardens, initially served in the office of the Assam Company and later on was appointed as a mauzadar in the Gabharu hill. Hemdhar Barua, the father of Rai Bahadur Jagannath Barua, had bought the Letekujan grant from the Government before retiring from his service. Dinanath Bezbaruah the father of Lakshminath Bezbaruah had opened two tea gardens, Rajabari and Singhaduar in Sibsagar district. He was also a loyal government servant. Some other Assamese tea planters were Rai Bahadur Jagannath Barua, Rai Bahadur Bisturam Barua, Rai Bahadur Ghanashyam Barua, Rai Bahadur Siva Prasad Barua, Ganga Govinda Phukan, Narayan Bezbarua and Kaliprasad Saliha. All these people were directly or indirectly connected with the British Government. In fact all of them could establish their foothold on the profit making cultivation only with the co-operation of the Britishers. The slightest conflict with the British often led to their destruction leading to the loss of their gardens.   Government was not willing to provide the local entrepreneurs with land suitable for cultivation. When an application was made for the lease of a plot of land many enquiries were made regarding his capabilities, financial resources etc. and in most of the cases the applicant received the stereotyped reply that the land was reserved for fuel purposes or that the land is a forest reserve.The applicant had no opportunity of knowing of alternative plots of land available for tea cultivation. Again, the Indian owned gardens were very small in size in comparison to the European Company owned gardens. Thus the tea industry in Assam was mainly an European owned industry. Government's policy was designed to attract the European capitalists and according to their convenience the waste land settlement rules were modified and changed several times.  

Although there was nothing overtly descriminatory in the policies of the Government against the local participation, yet for various causes their number was limited. As you are told already that those who could come forward to open tea gardens could do so only with the co-operation of the British and for their successful existence they had to be always loyal to the Government.The British Government did not want the growth of a local entrepreneurs who in future might give competition to the European planters and therefore any such attempt on the part of the local entrepreneurs was always nipped in the bud. The Brtish Government adopted different means for this purpose. Sometimes they used their authority to keep the local people away from this profitable business and sometimes they kept them satisfied by giving a Government job. There are many examples how the Government discouraged the local intrepreneurs for taking up tea plantation and tempted with Government job.

In the beginnig of the tea industry, Maniram Dewan's attempt to open the tea gardens ultimately led to his clash with the British authorities and ultimately he was hanged. Ahom king Purandar Singha lost his throne mainly because of his desire to open tea gardens on the Gabharu hill. Thus, you will see that at different times the Government had adopted different means to keep the local entrepreneurs away from profitable business.

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