Kerala Congress (M) leader K.M. Mani has called for the intervention of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi to resolve the predicament generated by the change in import duty regime of natural rubber.

Inaugurating a day-long fasting organised by the party at the Municipal Grounds at Thirunakkara on Tuesday, Mr. Mani called upon Union Ministers A.K. Antony and Vayalar Ravi, Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy and Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala to put pressure on the Centre to review the decision to liberalise the import regime.

According to him, it was wrong to drag politics into issues concerning lakhs of farmers. All parties should join hands to restore import duty on natural rubber to 20 per cent without any cap and to stop the proposed import of 1,00,000 tonnes of natural rubber under liberal terms.

Dubbing the decision to liberalise the import duty regime as ‘unimaginative,' Mr. Mani said no people-friendly political party would take a decision to slash the import duty of natural rubber from 20 per cent to the current 13.5 per cent to help the corporate sector at the expense of the farming community.

The Kerala Congress leader said his party's agitation was not aimed at any political party in particular or the UPA in general. “One of the Ministries under the UPA government has made a mistake. We are only asking the UPA leadership to come forward and take steps to correct the mistake on the part of this particular Ministry,” he said.

“In a democratic system, it was normal for ruling dispensations to commit mistakes. The important thing was to correct it when pointed out by others,” Mr. Mani said.

He said by liberalising import of natural rubber, the authorities had robbed the farmers of an opportunity to take advantage of the peak production season. The present scarcity of natural rubber in the market was on account of the extended monsoon being experienced by the traditional rubber planting areas.

P.J. Joseph, party chairman, C.F. Thomas, deputy chairman, Jose K. Mani, MP, State committee members, MLAs and other senior leaders participated in the fasting.

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