New Delhi | Highlighting plight of natural rubber farmers in Kerala amid sharp fall in prices, a CPI-M member has asked the government for a special package to help the distressed cultivators.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour in Rajya Sabha Friday, K N Balagopal said prices of natural rubber have dropped from Rs 240 a kg to Rs 80 due to cheap imports after the Indo-ASEAN free trade pact.
“The former Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) is (here). We fought in the streets against this Indo-ASEAN Agreement at that time, stating that the prices of rubber and other plantation crops will fall down. At that time, they said, ‘No’; it will benefit the farmers. But actually the prices have fallen to Rs 80, Balagopal said.
Now, rubber farmers in Kerala have started committing suicide. It is a very serious situation, he said. About 11 lakh farmers in Kerala were producing 9 lakh tonne rubber, but the production has now fallen to 6 lakh tonne, he said.
Farmers, on an average, are losing around Rs 15,000 crores per annum due to fall in prices, he said.
The issue has been raised several times, but it falls on the deaf ears of the government, Balagopal said.
The Left party leader said the government was ready for a bailout package to Kingfisher Airlines, but for the poor farmers and their families, the Government is not ready to give anything.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien asked Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to bring the issue to the notice of the Commerce Minister.
Rubber was cultivated and encouraged to be cultivated as an import substitute. Now the people are cutting their trees. Ultimately, what will happen is, you will have to import the entire rubber at the cost of the precious foreign exchange. So, something has to be done, Kurien said.
He said he has one acre of rubber plantation, but that is not being tapped because what you get from the yield is not sufficient to pay to the tapper. “But I have no problem… But for an ordinary farmer, who is having one acre or two acres or three acres, it is a problem. They have nothing. If they resort to committing suicide, you cannot do anything,” Kurien added.
He also asked why there was no chairman in the Rubber Board of India, a central government undertaking.
Chandan Mitra (BJP) said distress of farmers is really pathetic and said a parliamentary Committee had recommended that the Government should impose an offset duty or countervailing duty to curb imports from Malaysia, Thailand and the other places.
T N Seema of CPI(M) raised the issue of non disclosure of data of clinical trials of the Rotavirus vaccine in Vellore by Christian Medical College, Vellore and the Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India.
She said the trial has raised questions over the ethical standard on clinical trials.
Praveen Rashtrapal (Congress) raised the issue of making arrangements for poor students to encourage them to appear for primary and higher secondary exams.
Sanjay Sinh (Congress) raised the issue of deteriorating law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh particularly in Amethi and Sultanpur districts.
V Hanumantha Rao (Congress) raised the issue that representation of Other Backward Castes (OBCs) has not gone beyond 10 per cent in many departments of the Central Government.
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