`Farmers with over five acres should not be called small growers'

Nilgiris MP urged to bring about re-classification

Special Correspondent

UDHAGAMANDALAM: The Nilgiris District Congress Committee has emphasised the need to change the criteria for including a farmer in the small tea grower category.

Pointing out that even those owing 20 acres of tea estates were considered as small tea growers, the president of the committee, B. Gopalan, told mediapersons here on Tuesday that only if this anomaly were set right genuine small tea growers would benefit from schemes implemented for them by the Centre and State Governments.

Recalling that in the past the lion's share of the concessions and subsidies announced for the small growers had been cornered by such `big' farmers, he said that henceforth the `mistake' should not occur.

To ensure this, the Centre and State Governments should announce that only those owning five acres and below of cultivable land would be referred to as small growers.

Urging the Nilgiris MP, R. Prabhu, to help bring about the re-classification, Mr. Gopalan said that it would go a long way in improving the economic profile of the small farmers.

Adverting to the difficulties being faced by the small tea growers now on account of the steep fall in the prices of their produce, he claimed that efforts were on to arrange a meeting between a delegation from the Nilgiris and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Ministers concerned.

He regretted that due to anxiety some sections of the tea planting community were taking to the streets.

Tea cultivation in doldrums

Meanwhile, the State general body member of the Janata Dal (S), B. Viswanathan, has in a letter sent today to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who was now camping here, said that tea cultivation, which was the backbone of the district's economy, was in the doldrums. Though the tea industry was a major foreign exchange earner and those engaged in its trade were making huge profits, the growers of the main raw material were not getting remunerative prices.

The Tamil Nadu Government had introduced the sale `Ooty tea' to help the members of the Industrial Cooperative (INDCO) Tea Factories get fair prices.

However, the INDCO factories were not giving reasonable prices to their members.

Future of tea growers

Stating that the future of the small tea growers `lies in the hands' of the Chief Minister, he hoped that she would initiate steps to save them.

Pointing out that the Nilgiris district BJP was ready to join hands with anybody who could ensure a better deal for the small tea growers, the president of its Legal Wing, N. Arjjunan, said in a statement that the difficult situation prevailing in the Nilgiris should not be exploited by any one to gain political mileage.

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