The Left Democratic Front (LDF), on Monday, launched a protest against the Union government's decision to cut the import duty on natural rubber.

Inaugurating a dharna in front of the Rubber Board headquarters here on Monday, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said the Centre's agricultural policies would strike a blow to the progressive initiatives being implemented by the LDF government in the State. The LDF had come to power at a time when farmers' suicides were the order of the day under the United Democratic Front rule. Farmers were a dejected lot and faced perpetual crises owing to the Centre's policies and the apathy of then ruling dispensation.

The LDF government's initiatives had made a major difference in the condition of the farming community. However, the new policies being introduced by the Centre would return the farm sector to the conditions that prevailed earlier.

The decision to slash the import duty on natural rubber from 20 per cent to 13 per cent was one such move. Aimed at bringing down the growth registered in the sector, it would affect the lives of lakhs of small farmers, Mr. Vijayan said.

The decision not to include cashew and coir in the export promotion drive too was part of the ‘anti-farmer' and ‘anti-people' policies of the Centre, he said. Such policies would deeply affect the plantation sector which was the backbone of the State's economy, he said.

The regional trade agreements being entered into by the Union government were aimed at boosting the prospects of the corporate sector at the cost of the farm sector, Mr. Vijayan said. Kerala would be hit the worst from the provisions of such pacts.

Mr. Vijayan said even the Congress' coalition partners were finding it difficult to support the party in its ‘anti-farmer' policies.

Criticising the reported statement of Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy that the new policy on the import duty of natural rubber was being introduced on a court directive, Mr. Vijayan said Mr. Chandy was misleading the public and trying to protect the Centre.

Pannian Ravindran of the Communist Party of India, C.K. Nanu of the Janata Dal-S, P.C. Thomas of the Kerala Congress-Thomas, among others, spoke.

Earlier, activists of the LDF took out a march from Thirunakkara that culminated in the dharna.

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