BJP stages walkout, Siddaramaiah sticks to his guns

The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, led by its floor leader Jagadish Shettar, on Tuesday staged a walkout in the Legislative Assembly when Chief Minister Siddaramaiah refused to heed to their demand for putting on hold the ban on gutka till a solution to the problems facing the arecanut growers was discussed in both Houses.

Mr. Shettar termed the ban as “betraying the farmers” and expressed concern that it would impact arecanut cultivation. Earlier, Mr. Siddaramaiah, who responded to clarifications on the reply given by Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader, denied the allegations by the BJP that arecanut prices had crashed after the ban. The hike in import duty on arecanut by the Union government also contributed in stabilising the prices, he added.

However, Mr. Siddaramaiah assured the House that his government would come to the rescue of the arecanut growers, if the prices fell. If necessary, he would lead a delegation of legislators and arecanut growers to Delhi to meet Central authorities, he promised. Expressing dissatisfaction over the reply, the BJP members staged a walkout. Meanwhile, Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa advised the Chief Minister to direct the Minister concerned to study the recommendations of the Gorakh Singh Committee for solving the problems of areca growers in the State.

Notification

Earlier, the BJP demanded immediate withdrawal of a government notification banning gutka in the State in a bid to protect the interest of arecanut growers in 16 districts and sought to move an adjournment motion — that has a censuring provision — on the issue in both the Houses.

Mr. Shettar said the Congress has set a new precedent by issuing the notification when the State legislature was in session. He took exception to the government not taking the House into confidence before issuing the May 30 notification when the session was on.

Mr. Thimmappa rejected the BJP’s demand for discussion of the issue under the adjournment motion and allowed members to debate it under Rule 69 of the House.

Mr. Shettar then said Karnataka accounted for 60 per cent of the country’s arecanut production and there was nothing to suggest that arecanut is harmful to health.

The former Minister Visweshwara Hegde Kageri said

the government should immediately convene a meeting of arecanut farmers, associations and organisations to discuss the issue in a scientific manner. “We are not against the ban on gutka. The government should first make an alternative mechanism for growers. Then they can decide on banning gutka.”

The government, which has been directed by the Supreme Court to submit a compliance report and an affidavit on tobacco control and gutka ban by June 23, banned the sale and manufacture of gutka and paan masala under the regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011. These regulations have been framed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.

In Council

In the Council, Leader of the Opposition D.V. Sadananda Gowda sought to move an adjournment motion on the issue. However, Council chairman D.H. Shankaramurthy allowed a discussion on the issue under Rule 68 that does not have censuring clause, following a suggestion from the government.

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