All India Kisan Sabha, the farmers' wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI), has condemned the reduction of import levy on rubber and warned it would organise an agitation demanding the withdrawal of the decision.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Sathyan Mokeri, State general secretary of the Kisan Sabha, said a State-wide agitation would be organised on August 27 to protest against the decision and to press its withdrawal.

Protest rallies would be organised across the State that day. A march would be taken out to the office of the Rubber Board the same day. Mr. Sathyan termed the decision of the UPA government to lower import levy on rubber as anti-farmer and warned it would deepen the crisis in the State's farm sector.

“The decline in the prices of natural rubber has already started. Soon after the decision to lower the import duty from 20 per cent to 7.5 per cent was announced, the prices fell by Rs.15 per kg. It would decline further when more rubber was imported. There is no urgent need to import rubber since nearly two lakh tons of rubber is already lying unsold,” the Kisan Sabha leader said.

He alleged that the decision had been taken under pressure from industrialists who needed rubber as raw material. Though the import levy had been lowered ostensibly to help tyre manufacturers by ensuring availability of rubber, past experience had shown the price of tyre would not decline because of government decision, he added.

Joint struggle

Pointing out that Kerala Congress leader K.M. Mani had also protested against the decision though he was also a Congress ally, Mr. Sathyan said the Kisan Sabha would try for a joint struggle with other political parties since it was an issue that would have an adverse impact on the State's farm sector.

I.V. Sasankan, vice-president of the State Kisan Sabha, pointed out at the press meet that the cut in import duty on rubber was the latest instance of the Central government's insensitivity to the problems of State's farmers.

The Central government had earlier given subsidy on imported palmolein ignoring the protests of the State's coconut growers. “A similar indifference to problems of rubber growers is reflected in current decision on rubber,” Mr. Sasankan said.

Answering questions at the press conference, Mr. Sathyan said the Kisan Sabha would also oppose the recent decision of the Centre not to sanction compensation to farmers for loss of coconut trees due to lightning. He said the Central government norms for releasing compensation should be changed so that farmers would be eligible for compensation for loss due to natural calamities like lightning.

He wanted the State government to put pressure on the Centre to change its norms and, if it was not possible, to pay compensation from its own coffers.

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