Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 31 (PTI) The opposition Congress-led UDF criticised the Left government in Kerala on Wednesday, accusing it of doing nothing for the lakhs of rubber growers in the state facing acute challenges due to the falling price of the crop.
Raising the matter in the assembly, the opposition urged the government to take steps to increase the price of the crop to Rs 300 per kg to support the farmers.
The opposition also staged a walkout, alleging "inaction" from the CPI(M)-led government in addressing the concerns of lakhs of rubber farmers in the state.
Demanding a discussion on the topic in the House, Kerala Congress (M) legislator Monce Joseph raised the issue during the zero hour and moved a notice for adjournment motion in this regard.
The MLA, while presenting the notice, said that in the wake of grave challenges and difficulties faced by rubber farmers, the government should be ready to increase the support price to Rs 300.
If it is not possible due to the current financial position of the state, the government should at least be ready to raise the rubber price up to Rs 250, as offered in the ruling LDF's election manifesto.
Describing rubber farming as the "backbone" of the state's economy, he said it would go into further destruction if the Centre, as a member of the world trade agreements, continued with its policy of facilitating the indiscriminate import of natural rubber.
"The Centre's destructive attitude is highly condemnable. It will be a greater relief for farmers if the state government is ready to do things possible for them other than just submitting recommendations to the Centre," Joseph said.
He also pointed out the example of the previous Congress-UDF ministry, which had implemented the Rubber Price Incentive Scheme (RPIS) in 2015.
The then-government had implemented the scheme to support the farmers despite suffering a loss, the opposition legislator added.
The opposition admitted that various international trade treaties signed by the Centre and the indiscriminate import of natural rubber from outside were the core reasons for its falling price and thus the root cause of the plight of rubber growers in the state.
However, they accused the Pinarayi Vijayan government of doing nothing to find a solution to address the concerns of lakhs of rubber farmers in the state other than submitting representations to the Centre seeking their support.
Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan also criticised the state government for its alleged lack of intervention to address the concerns of rubber farmers.
He said the LDF government was even struggling to provide the current basic price and other benefits without any due.
The LoP also wanted the state government to approach the Centre to stop the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) for some years, invoking a designated provision in the treaty.
However, state Agriculture Minister P Prasad rejected the UDF charges and blamed the Centre for the plight of rubber farmers.
The state government completely understands the sentiments of the rubber farmers, he said.
Admitting that the LDF government and the state agriculture department do not think that the price of Rs 170 per kg is adequate, he said any hike in this was possible only with the support of the Centre.
He said the Centre's support and intervention were essential to making any change in the present situation, and a united protest cutting across politics is essential for this.
The minister detailed various representations submitted by the state to the Centre to address the concerns of rubber farmers.
Though Kerala submitted a detailed proposal to formulate a Natural Rubber Risk Fund using a particular amount from the import duty of rubber to support the farmers, the Centre didn't respond positively, he alleged.
As the government continued to blame the Centre and stressed that there was no need for a discussion on the matter in the House, Speaker A N Shamseer refused to leave for the opposition motion.
Protesting over this, the UDF legislators later staged a walkout. PTI LGK KH