Two tea gardens in Dooars get banking ease

Residents of two tea estates in the Dooars can avail banking services from near home from now on, as the State Bank of India (SBI) opened customer service points (CSPs) at the gardens on Friday.

This move will be convenient for both workers, and their employers — the tea companies.

For the past couple of years, most of the tea companies had been bearing additional costs as the Centre imposed TDS (tax deducted at source) at the rate of 2 per cent on annual cash drawings above Rs 1 crore.

This is because in the tea industry, wages, bonus and other payments are still made in cash with most gardens located in remote areas. Workers find it inconvenient to travel so far to banks to draw the money.

Sumit Ghosh, the secretary of the north Bengal branch of Tea Association of India (TAI), said they had been working for months now to facilitate the opening of mini-banks or CSPs in the tea gardens itself.

“This would, on one hand, reduce the additional expenditure that tea companies have to bear for drawing cash above Rs 1 crore, and on the other hand, encourage tea workers and their families to get into the banking system,” said Ghosh.

The association, sources said, could get the support of the SBI to open CSPs in a number of gardens, both in Terai and in the Dooars.

“Tea companies have also responded to our call by providing logistic support with room, power supply, water and other facilities so that the CSPs can run. On Friday, we opened two new CSPs at Kurti and Patharjhora tea estates (both in the Dooars). The facility will help the tea garden population as well as residents of adjacent areas,” added Ghosh. 

A TAI source said that so far facilities had opened in nine tea estates of the Terai while proposals had been submitted to open CSPs in 17 more tea gardens — five in Terai and seven in the Dooars.

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