The government on Wednesday came out strongly against the Centre, accusing it of turning its back on the crisis faced by rubber farmers in the State.
Agriculture Minister V.S.Sunil Kumar told the Assembly that the State could do little to help the struggling farmers in the absence of financial assistance and policy support from the Centre. Replying to a submission moved by Mons Joseph, he alleged that the Union government had rendered the Rubber Board dysfunctional.
Referring to the liberalised import of rubber that was driving down prices in the domestic market, he said the Centre was more interested in helping tyre companies than farmers. “Apart from the move to promote the use of rubber for road surfacing, the Centre has adopted a negligent attitude to the sector,” he asserted.
The Minister assured the House that an all-party delegation from Kerala would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to highlight the crisis faced by the agricultural sector in the State and seek policy support and financial aid to tide over the situation.
He informed Mr.Joseph that an amount of Rs. 396 crore had been released as subsidy for farmers under the Rubber Production Incentive Scheme.
Earlier, moving the submission, Mr.Joseph urged the government to enhance the subsidy from 150 to 200 and exert pressure on the Centre to stop the import of natural rubber. Pointing out that the 18% GST on rubber wood would aggravate the plight of the struggling farmers, he called for withdrawing the tax.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the House that the government had launched a State-wide water conservation campaign and set up three task force committees for the purpose. He was replying to a submission moved by K.Krishnankutty on the impact of the weak southwest monsoon on the agriculture sector and drinking water availability in the State.
Mr. Vijayan said the water conservation drive had been stepped up in the parched areas of Chittur, Malampuzha and Kasaragod.
Work on 3,000 water harvesting and storage projects had been taken up and 19 lakh mandays created under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
The Chief Minister said the government was closely monitoring the situation following the weak monsoon. He added that a proposal to desilt waterbodies and increase their storage capacity was under consideration.