Jorhat: Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Saturday said tea would be declared as national drink by April next year.
"The drink would be accorded national drink status by April 17 next year to coincide with the 212th birth anniversary of first Assamese tea planter and Sepoy Mutiny leader Maniram Dewan," Ahluwalia said while addressing the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the Assam Tea Planters Association here.
It was Maniram Dewan who was not only the first indigenous tea planter but also involved in the national movement, he said at the the Tocklai Experimental Station.
"The other important reason is that half of the tea industry labour comprises women and is the largest employer in the organised sector," Ahluwalia added.
The Deputy Chairman said he would soon take up the matter with Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.
He said India is the largest producer and consumer of black tea in the world. According to ORG-India Tea Consumption Study, 83 per cent households in India consume tea and is the cheapest beverage in the world after water.
Ahluwalia urged tea planters and producers to emulate the path of coffee planters and go in for producing more varieties.
There are more than 20 varieties of coffee in the market but there are only two varieties of tea -- CTC and Orthodox -- and there was an urgent need to bring in more varieties, he said.
Ahluwalia stressed the need for brand identification of different varieties of tea which could be further popularised by the private sector.
He also announced that a tea-room of international standard 'Chai Bar', the first of its kind in the region, would be soon opened at the Gauhati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC).
The tea room with a world class ambiance will have a tea lounge along with a retail shop where more than 50 types of best quality tea would be on display, he added.
Ahluwalia asserted that economic growth of the North East was healthy and the region would soon witness a sea-change with proper connectivity not only between different states but also with South East Asian and East Asian nations.
Speaking on the occasion, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said a special package for the tea industry would be announced to ensure its development.
"The tea industry is a village based industry which has played a pivotal role in the state's economy. It is heartening to note that the young generation in the industry is doing very well," Gogoi said.
There are many young tea planters and small tea growers in the state and "they should come forward as we are ready to help them in all possible way".
The meeting was presided by ATPA Chairman Atma Ram Kesera. ATPA, formed in 1937, is the oldest tea association of indigenous tea planters in the country.