June 21, 2015

AIKS Condemns Exclusion of Rubber Farmers from Subsidies

THE All India Kisan Sabha has condemned the BJP-led NDA government’s decision to exclude rubber farmers in Kerala and Tamilnadu from the subsidies they were entitled to for new planting and replanting. In a statement issued on June 15, it said that this move comes at a time when the rubber farmers are in an acute crisis due to fall in price of rubber. Farmers in Kerala alone are yet to be paid subsidy arrears of over Rs 30 crore for trees already planted. The Rubber Board’s own estimate recommends replanting on 2 lakh hectares in Kerala. Farmers hit by falling prices and total apathy on the part of the state and central governments will not have any incentive to undertake such activity. It is also to be noted that this move comes when other rubber producing countries like Thailand and Malaysia have massively hiked subsidies to rubber farmers. Subsidies in Malaysia in 2014 were increased to US$30.4 million and in Thailand to US$266 million in 2014-15. India gives subsidy far below these countries. The BJP-led government is seeking to convey that the move is part of a plan to expand Rubber Board’s activities in the North East. Such plans of expansion need not necessarily be at the expense of farmers elsewhere. Already while farmers in Kerala get a subsidy of Rs 25,000 per hectare of rubber planted, there is a higher incentive of Rs 35,000 per hectare to the farmers in the North East. AIKS demands that rather than cutting down the subsidy amount, it should be increased to Rs 50,000 per hectare. The abrupt withdrawal of the subsidy in times of the drastic fall in prices will make life difficult for the over 10 lakh rubber farmers in Kerala. This insensitive approach of the Congress-led UDF government and the BJP-led NDA government has led some farmers to commit suicide. The BJP government has also failed to appoint a full-time chairman for the Rubber Board and is delaying the filling up of key posts even after a year of the government formation. AIKS demands the immediate reorganisation of the Rubber Board and to ensure effective intervention to address the problems of the rubber farmers. The AIKS will launch wide protests against the government’s decision until it is withdrawn and subsidies are enhanced for the rubber farmers.