Suddenly, nobody wants to own the Kerala Rubber Board
By Abhilash Chandran | Express News Service | Published: 19th May 2017 02:18 AM |
KOTTAYAM: Even as protests simmer over the move to pull the shutters on 14 out of 26 regional offices of Rubber Board across the state, it is coming out that the latest bid by Ministry of Commerce and Industry to get the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoA&FW) to take over the running of the board has failed.
Speaking to Express, Alok Vardhan Chaturvedi, Additional Secretary (Plantations Wing), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, said the Department of Agriculture responded saying that they do not support the proposal.
“A proposal was submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat to consider transfer of Rubber Board from the Department of Commerce to the MoA&FW and the amendment of relevant business rules.
The Department of Agriculture turned this down, saying the mandate of its ministry was production of food and ensuring nutritional security to the country.
They felt plantation crops, where large scale trade in the form of import and export is involved, was the domain of the Ministry of Commerce. In view of the above, it was decided to keep the status quo,” said Chaturvedi.
Read this as the sub-text of the dwindling fund allocation from the parent ministry to the board and a dismal picture unfolds. Reason: even now, Rubber Board continues to be the one entity that is looked upon with hope by about 10 lakh r bber growers in the state.
While the Rubber Board managed to make ends meet in 2014-15, it fell short by Rs 82 crore in 2015-16 against an expenditure mark-up of Rs 230 crore. In the last fiscal, the gap widened further, forcing it to forego passing on planting subsidy and other benefits to farmers.
The decision to merge 14 out of 26 regional offices into the dozen that will continue functioning is seen as a conscious decision taken in the wake of reduced fund availability.
“We did not invite planting subsidy applications last year as we had exceeded the target for the Five Year plan period. Though we have recommended the need for continuing the subsidy this year, we are not sure of the outcome. A final approval from the government is awaited,” said A Ajith Kumar, chairman and executive director, Rubber Board, who is presently on a visit to Guwahati to review rubber cultivation in Assam and Tripura.
The prospects of a commodity that has been the main income source for about a million rubber growers in Kerala seems beset with dark clouds.
The Ministry of Commerce has nixed plans for a National Rubber Policy. The dwindling fund flow and the resultant ambiguity regarding subsidies to growers certainly does not augur well for the future. The regional offices of the Rubber Board may be getting merged as part of a rationalisation move, but try telling that to the rubber growers.
Natural rubber production (All India)
2015-16: 5,62,000 tonne
2016-17: 6,90,000 tonne
78% Kerala’s share in total production