Special Correspondent

Udhagamandalam: Hundreds of AIADMK supporters, including a number of women, observed a fast at the Independence Square here on Monday to highlight problems faced by thousands of small tea growers of the district and condemn the Government for its "failure" to tackle them.

The fast was organised by the Nilgiris unit of the party. Among those who participated were AIADMK farmers' wing secretary Durai Govindaraj, district secretary M. Selvaraj, former tourism minister A. Miller and district president K. Hutchi Gowder.

Pointing out that the tea industry was going through difficult times, several speakers claimed that imposition of the Value Added Tax (VAT) had affected the tea traders.

Blaming the DMK Government for the woes of the small tea growers, they wanted tea to be exempted from VAT.

Stating that during the AIADMK regime, the affected tea growers had been given a subsidy, they wanted the Government to revive the scheme. They also demanded fixing of a floor price of Rs. 15 a kg of raw leaves.

Meanwhile, Minister in-charge of the Nilgiris K. Ramachandran has in a statement here said following the steps taken by the State Government with the help of the Central Government the raw leaves had been fetching Rs. 10 a kg for the past few months. Efforts were on to reduce the VAT from 4 per cent to one.