Over 300 farmers from the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha laid siege to the office of the Deputy Commissioner here on Thursday demanding that the Government waive loans taken by areca growers.

Sangha State unit president Kodihalli Chandrashekar said the Government should waive the loans of farmers because it was not possible for them to repay them with the high input costs and very low market prices. He said the Government should “scientifically” fix the minimum support price for areca nut. Input costs at present amounted to Rs. 99,985 for an acre of areca plantation. The yield per acre was 725 kg or 6.5 quintals. With the current procurement price hovering around Rs. 75, an arecanut grower could earn only Rs. 47,135, incurring Rs. 52,860 loss.

“We are the ones who feed everybody. Why should we be poor?” Mr. Chandrashekar asked.

In Koppal district, the police “shamelessly” beat up people whose only demand was that they be paid their wages. “If the Superintendent of Police is not suspended, we will lay siege to his office with our baarkolu (whip used on cattle),” he said.

Areca Growers' Association president Shrinivas Achari said farmers did not need only the minimum support price. The MSP must be fixed at an amount that was slightly higher than the soaring input costs. He said the “kumki” rights of farmers should be recognised by the Government and that attempts to give lands to industrialists be stopped.

He strongly criticised the Deputy Commissioner for finding an excuse to be away from his office when so many people had come despite the scorching heat to tell their problems.

“We have not come to the Deputy Commissioner's office as sightseers. We want to tell you the hardships we face,” he said.

District unit working president Ravi Kiran said areca plantations in eight villages had been affected by the yellow-leaf disease. Both nationalised banks and cooperative banks were harassing farmers and threatening to auction their lands. He said 30 years of being affected by the yellow-leaf disease and 10 years of poor market had taken its toll on farmers. He came out in support of social activist Anna Hazare's fast to pressurise the Government to act on the Lokpal Bill which had been pending for more than 40 years. He said members of the sangha were ready to go to Delhi in the thousands if need be. “(Mr.) Hazare need not fear, we will support him,” he said.

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