Kerala: Rubber Farmers Hold Day-Night Protest Demanding MSP for Rubber, Withdrawal of Rubber Bill
AIKS leaders Dr Ashok Dhawale, Dr Vijoo Krishnan, state president M Vijayakumar, secretary Panoli Valsan, and national vice president S K Preeja led the Raj Bhavan march on May 25. (Courtesy: Kerala Karshaka Sangham)
The Kerala Karshaka Sangham held a massive march and day-night protest in front of the Raj Bhawan (Governor's office) on May 25 and 26 on various demands of the rubber farmers. Over 15,000 farmers participated in the two-day protest, demanding a Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 300 per kg for rubber, recognising rubber as an agricultural crop and withdrawing from the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has also demanded the Central Government withdraw the pro-corporate Rubber bill introduced in the parliament, ensure subsidies for rubber cultivation and resurrect the Rubber Board.
Preceding the march and dharna, 28 long marches covering 600 km were held across the state with a participation of around 29,000 farmers, besides visiting 2.8 lakh households to explain the demands of the rubber farmers.
Rubber prices have fluctuated for several years, leading to the low income of the farmers across Kerala. The impact is also high, with the state accounting for over 90% of rubber production nationwide. The Kerala Karshaka Sangham, affiliated with the AIKS, has placed the demand of ensuring MSP for rubber at Rs 300 per kg.
After the union ministry for Commerce and Industry rejected the assurance of MSP since rubber is a cash crop, the farmers demanded the union government reconsider its position on categorising rubber.
Dr Vijoo Krishnan, general secretary of the AIKS, inaugurated the protest.
“The most important demand of the farmers is the MSP for rubber. The union government must ensure an MSP and procure rubber directly from the farmers to end the crisis faced by the farmers for the last 10-15 years,” Panoli Valsan, state secretary of the Kerala Karshaka Sangham, told NewsClick.
The AIKS has held the Congress, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led union governments accountable for entering into FTA, facilitating the import of the rubber, despite the high-quality rubber available in the country from Kerala and northeastern states. The demands for increasing the import duty have found little attention from the union government.
The AIKS held long marches in all districts across the state on the demands of rubber farmers and other issues affecting the agrarian community. The long marches crisscrossed the state for about 600 km in the hilly terrain districts. More than 3.3 lakh pamphlets were distributed to the public during the marches, and 2.8 lakh houses were visited to explain the plights of the farmers.
“The union government has rejected the assurance of the MSP, citing that the rubber is a cash crop. The AIKS demands the union government announce rubber as an agricultural crop,” Panoli Valsan said.
The AIKS has flagged the increasing price of vehicle tyres despite the falling or stagnant rubber prices. The organisation accused the big tyre manufacturing companies of manipulating government policies and decisions.
The AIKS flayed the decision of the union government to shift the Rubber Board outside Kerala. “The union government must withdraw this decision. The board should continue to function from Kerala, considering the cultivation area and the contribution to the production,” Panoli Valsan said.
The organisation has demanded a special package for Kerala rubber farmers, considering the stabilisation fund provided by the state government and introducing rubberised roads in the national highways to ensure procurement from the union government.
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