Stresses need to strengthen PDS

Finance Minister, T.M. Thomas Issac, has stressed the need for strengthening the public distribution system to meet the challenges posed by the Free Trade Agreement signed by India with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Minister was inaugurating the seminar on FTA organised by the Karshaka Sanghom district committee at Kizhakkedathu Mariam Complex here on Monday.

Mr. Issac said the FTA in its present form would bring about a disastrous effect to the State’s farming sector and the people of Kerala should stand united to tide over the crisis.

He said the FTA that brings about advantages to the nation but inflicts heavy losses on the State could never be appreciated and accepted.

Congress (I) was campaigning for the agreement, projecting that it would be beneficial to sectors like Information Technology, banking, drug production, etc, disregarding its ill effects to the farming sector which has been the backbone of Indian economy, he alleged.

Dr. Issac alleged that the ‘negative list’ aired aloud by the Congress (I) in connection with the FTA was nothing short of an eyewash.

Rubber sheet has been included in the ‘negative list’, whereas latex is not being enlisted, leaving enough room for its free import, he added.

He said the FTA was likely to put the State’s fisheries sector in dire straits. The FTA imposes no import duty on processed fish and other marine products.

Dr. Issac said the Left Democratic Front government has put Kerala on a fast track of development. But, the FTA will stand as a stumbling block, he added.

He said the measures reportedly being taken by the Centre to meet the challenges posed by the FTA were grossly inadequate. The agreement would lead to a drastic fall in the prices of all farm produces, he said.

Though the Centre had announced the Kuttanad package, the fund for the same is yet to be cleared. But, the State government has already sanctioned funds for the construction and strengthening of bunds in the paddy bowl of central Kerala, he said.

State Planning Board member, K. Harilal, delivered the keynote address. Mr. K.P. Chandrashekhara Kurup, district president of the Karshaka Sanghom, presided over the inaugural function.

Mr. Raju Abraham, MLA, Mr. K. Ananthagopan, CPI(M) district secretary, Mr. Omalloor Sankaran, District Panchayat member and Mr. A. Padmakumar, CPI(M) district secretariat member, also spoke.

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