Tea Board of India retools administration

Darjeeling Tea Gardenoriginally published in Times of India, August 19, 2016

Kolkata: With an aim to restructure the functioning of the Tea Board of India, the Centre is mulling over appointing an IAS officer as chief executive officer (CEO) to carry out day-to-day operations of the tea sector regulator. However, the post of the Tea Board chairman will remain to look after policy-related actions needed for the ailing industry, said Union commerce secretary Rita Teaotia on the sidelines of a CII meet in city on Friday.

With Tea Board remaining headless for nearly three years now, the commerce secretary said the ministry was actively scouting for a full-time chairman.

"The intention is to bifurcate the top functions of the Tea Board between a non-executive chairman and a chief executive officer (CEO). In all probabilities, the non-executive chairman's post would be filled by a government-nominated person," added Teaotia.

Clearing the air on the shifting of Board headquarters to Guwahati, Teaotia added, "There is no plan of taking the board headquarters to some other city for now."

Speculating on the name of the new Board CEO, a source close to the Union ministry of commerce indicated that the first non-executive chairman's post would be held by a political heavyweight from BJP-ruled Assam, which is the top tea-producing state in India.
So far, Tea Board had been headed by an IAS officer as its chairman alternatively from West Bengal and Assam cadres.

The last full-time chairman was MGVK Bhanu. Presently, the joint secretary with the commerce ministry, Santosh Sarangi, is officiating as chairman of the Tea Board.

On tea industry's charge that work had been affected due to absence of a permanent chairman, she said, "These remarks have no basis. The present incumbent who is acting as chairman is coming to the city every single week and all the schemes of the Tea Board are being implemented."

On Thursday, a senior official of Indian Tea Association (ITA), the largest tea producers' body in the country, has said the industry is suffering owing to absence of a permanent Board chairman for the last three years.

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