Fall in tobacco prices affects Vishwanath’s pitch for re-election

Farmers question him on fall in prices during campaign trail

Barely had A.H. Vishwanath, seeking re-election as a BJP candidate, finished his roadside election speech in Agrahara, a village situated about 7 km from Hunsur town last Sunday, when he had to face embarrassing questions from villagers over the fall in prices of tobacco.

Mr. Vishwanath’s passionate address on the creation of a new Devaraj Urs district with Hunsur as its headquarters appeared to mean little to the village head, Ramakrishne Gowda, who was more concerned about the steps taken to arrest the collapse of prices of tobacco, which is the source of livelihood of thousands of farmers in the region.

Replying to Mr. Gowda, Mr. Vishwanath said the party MP Pratap Simha was looking into the matter. He also gave assurance of providing licences to an estimated 18,900 farmers who were growing tobacco illegally.

“He will go to Delhi with Chief Minister B.S. Yeddiyurappa, meet the Union Commerce Minister and do whatever is necessary. If not for the elections, Mr. Simha would have brought the Commerce Minister here by now. Our MP is taking necessary steps”, Mr. Vishwanath said.

Next, Mr .Vishwanath had to face uncomfortable questions on his failure to visit the village even once after his election in the May 2018 Assembly polls though the villagers had extended full support to him. Though Mr. Vishwanath blamed “political confusion” for the lapse, he publicly apologised to the villagers.

However, reassuring the farmers of the Tobacco Board’s efforts to improve the prices of tobacco is turning out to be a major challenge to the BJP in Hunsur, which is home to more than 25,000 tobacco growing families.

Mahadeva, a tobacco farmer, who was among the group of people listening to Mr. Vishwanath’s road-side speech, told The Hindu later that the collapse in prices of tobacco had hit them very hard. Unlike last year when they were paid more than ₹150 for good bright grade and ₹120 for even low grade, they were paid less than ₹100 for the low grade this year, he said.

But, Tobacco Board officials clarified that the fall in prices was restricted only to low grade.

Mr. Mahadeva said a farmer’s yield comprises good bright grade, medium grade as well as low grade. “They are either rejecting low grade or paying us a paltry sum”, he complained, insisting that their average earning per kg of tobacco had plummeted this year.

“How can we subsist when the input costs including labour and fertilizers is increasing?”, questioned Neela Satish, also a farmer, who had employed a couple of women for grading the tobacco.

The Tobacco Board officials have laid blame for the fall in prices to an increase in yield of low grade tobacco this year on account of copious rainfall during August and September.

However, taking the mood of farmers into consideration, the Tobacco Board has appealed to the traders to pay the farmers a better price during the auctions.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and Hasiru Sene had confronted Mr. Pratap Simha in Mysuru last Sunday, questioning his failure to attend a meeting of tobacco farmers they had convened in Periyapatna on November 18. The KRRS and Hasiru Sene have convened another meeting of tobacco farmers and people’s representatives in Periyapatna on November 28.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 9:53:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/fall-in-tobacco-prices-affects-confounds-vishwanaths-pitch-for-re-election/article30098014.ece

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