Kerala rubber farmers’ woes unaddressed in budget: Leaders

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 29 (IANS) The woes of Kerala’s beleaguered rubber farmers seem set to continue as their problems found no mention in the union budget for 2016-17 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday, said state leaders from the entire spectrum.

Last month, the representatives of the two key plantation bodies in a pre-budget memorandum to Jaitley had said the domestic rubber plantation business is in deep trouble and demanded immediate measures to help the beleaguered rubber farmers by way of a package, but to no avail.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy termed the budget as one that totally ignored Kerala.

“We all expected that there would be a special package of Rs.1,000 crore to help the rubber farmers, but it has not happened and they have also downsized the allocation to the Rubber Board (headquarters at Kottayam). This is most unfortunate,” he said.

Kerala today accounts for 82 percent of the rubber production but on account of the falling price, the lives of close to a million growers and their families in the state has been badly affected as price per kilogram of natural rubber has fallen below Rs.95, the lowest in the recent past.

“Rubber does not find a mention at all in the budget.. this is a lacklustre one and a totally disappointing one. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured in his visit to the state on this and now, it (his promise) has fallen flat,” said state Congress president V.M.Sudheeran.

Former bureaucrat and Left supported legislator K.J.Alphonse, who is now a member of the BJP national executive, told the media that he personally had requested both Modi and Jaitley that the budget should devise a mechanism where it should ensure that the minimum support price be at least Rs.150 a kg.

“But I am hopeful that both the PM and Jaitley can intervene to provide a succour to the rubber farmers by coming out with a package and it need not necessarily reflect in the budget,” he said.

Anto Antony, Congress Lok Sabha member from Pathanamthitta constituency which accounts for the giant share of the homestead farmers, expressed his anger in the floor of the house by raising a rubber sheet.

“When the minister was about to end his speech, I rose and said that it’s most unfortunate that not even a single rupee has been set aside for rubber farmers. I exhibited a rubber sheet and when this was seen, instead of giving an answer, there was a hurry to wind up the proceedings and the house was adjourned for the day in a flash. We are totally crestfallen,” Antony told the media.

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