SIRSI: A huge rally of more than 45,000 areca growers was addressed by Pontiff Gangadharendra Saraswati Swamiji of Swarnavalli mutt on Sunday at the district stadium, Sirsi, where he insisted on waiving of farmers' loan.
He asked for a support price, betta land income sharing, amendment to the Forest Act of 2006 (Recognition of Tribal and Traditional Dwellers Use) and extension of time for developing alternative packing material for pan masala and gutkha in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict. He also asked for the set up of the Ayurveda university in Uttar Kannada that is rich in biodiversity.
He said that areca farmers in Malnad and vanilla farmers were suffering from mounted loan and interest due to floods, diseases and price instability.
Around 43,529 families depending on areca and more than 2.17 lakh families of agricultural labourers and small traders were in distress and on the verge of taking extreme steps due to heavy debts, he added. Therefore a loan waiver scheme should be extended for those farmers, he urged.
In all these years, the price of areca, paddy and vanilla have crashed which has left the farmers in lurch, he pointed out.
He demanded that the government should fix `14,800 for red areca and `11,800 for red and white, per quintal, as recommended by the Areca Research Development Trust, Mangalore. He asked for a support price of `1,600 per quintal of paddy.
On the use of betta land (minor forest) he demanded to restore the facilities provided under Canara Privilege Act. He also added that about 90 per cent of the minor produce obtained in betta land be given to farmers who maintain it so as to rescue the marginal farmers.
He sought an amendment to Forest Act of 2006 (Recognition of Tribal and Traditional Dwellers Use) for the benefit of tribal and traditional forest dwellers as the present Bill has many loopholes.
'`300 cr needed'
Congress leader BL Shankar said that `300 crore needed for loan waiver of areca growers could be included in the unspent Vidarbha package. There is a need to convince that areca is not a food product but an agricultural product in the Supreme Court to tackle a number of areca related issues, he said at the rally.
He assured that the Congress would support the cause of areca farmers. MLC YSV Datta said that a political will was needed to convert areca farmers' loan into a longterm development loan. He pointed out that the areca farmers' meet at Sirsi could be termed as Magna Carta.
Uttar Kannada MP Anantkumar Hegde said that the demands put forth by the MPs of the Parliamentarian Forum for Areca growers that met the PM recently was being considered favorable.
Former minister R V Deshapande disclosed that NABARD has agreed to waive as much as 50 per cent of loan of the areca farmers. The remaining loan amount could be waived off by the government, he suggested.
District in charge minister assured that he would apprise the chief minister about the plight of areca farmers.