An hour journey from Darjeeling via Lebong through a bumpy hilly road, you reach to Mineral spring Tea garden... well not a tea garden in that sense. Till 1952 it was operating a tea garden, and because of fights between trade unions, management and the owner - it fell apart and could not continue. It was completely shutdown in 1960. The land was mortgaged to Indian bank, and they wanted to sell the land. However, during the land settlement period - Government managed to get hold of the land and distributed among the dwellers of 12 hamlets of Mineral Spring Tea garden area. Well, that's not the story here. The story begins after this.
Around 500 tea labourers, who now have some land, continued keeping tree plants 50, 100, 200, 800 in their land along with some other plants, crops, orange, pigs, cows, vegetable … all mixed up. They use to sell individually in Darjeeling, which is far far, if you walk up! They eventually formed a Samity - a cooperative, with support of few extremely local enthusiast, and started operation like collecting of tea leaves from different household and develop MIS systems of data keeping, pricing, paying back to the producer and selling to a Tea company. There are 344 active tea growers now - who only sell green leaves (I have tasted tea made from their own consumption in a desi way … it is really awesome - REAL DARJEELING TEA). They have their own internal control system for organic certification. A business completely run by the community - and they are happy with keeping it that low. So they do not care about regulations, red tapes and red eyes … or eyes of any colour, for that matter.
Local RSP institution, Prerna is actively involved with this group and trained up 27 of them as RSP and they have started developing their own small projects like setting up plant nurseries, waste management etc. Will gradually publish the stories there.