Staff Reporter

Rice allotted not fully drawn for the past three years, says Thomas Chandy

‘Cut was part of normal official procedures’

All-party meet had not met Pawar to discuss rice quota issue

ALAPPUZHA: Kuttanad MLA and Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) deputy leader in the Assembly, Thomas Chandy, has said that Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar could not be blamed for the slash in Kerala’s rice quota from the Centre.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, Mr. Chandy said several politicians, who had not done anything worthy to pressurise the Centre into restoring the State’s rice quota, were blaming Mr. Pawar as if he had slashed the quota for Kerala for personal gains. The truth, Mr. Chandy said, was that the cut was part of “normal official procedures” when a State fails to lift its full quota of Above Poverty Line (APL) and Below Poverty Line (BPL) rice quotas every year.

Kerala had failed to lift its APL quota share in 2005, 2006 and 2007, which led to officials at the Centre reallocating the shares to different states. Now, when the State was facing a shortage of rice, it had to pressurise the Centre to restore the quota. However, the “so-called” all-party delegation, which had “mysteriously avoided” the NCP’s representatives in the Assembly, had not met Mr. Pawar in relation with the rice quota issue, Mr. Chandy claimed.

The delegation, he said, had raised only the calamity relief issue and the M.S. Swaminathan Commission’s Kuttanad Package issue. “No leader from Kerala has approached Mr. Pawar on the rice quota issue so far. Mr. Pawar does not have anything directly to do with slashing of quotas because officials do it as part of normal procedures. He, therefore, does not have to apologise to Kerala as some politicians here have demanded,” the Kuttanad MLA said.

Mr. Chandy also said the State Government would have to act fast if it wanted to avoid the shortage of combine harvesters in Kuttanad next year. The MLA had managed to procure 13 combine harvesters on his own from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu by paying an advance rent of Rs. 1.5 lakh for each machine. These machines were currently being used in different paddy fields in Kuttanad.

Mr. Chandy has also signed an agreement with the Faridabad-based Claas India Limited to purchase 10 combine harvesters, which could be deployed in Kuttanad next year. Talks were also held with the Tamil Nadu State Paddy Harvest Association to avoid agents to procure the machines and to arrange more combine harvesters on rent next year, he said.