Over 60 lakh tobacco-growers and 2 crore farm labourers across the country are worried about their livelihood as the Union government has signed an agreement of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of World Health Organisation to reduce tobacco crop in the country.
Farmers, who participated in the 13th Tobacco Institute of India Farmer Awards function held here on Saturday, decided to launch a massive movement against the World Health Organisation which is pressuring the central government to ban tobacco production in the country.
Not only farmers and farm labour, about 2.2 million tendu leaf pluckers, 4.8 million bidi workers and 5 million traders and retailers and their families in the country are also leading lives depending on tobacco crop. If the government banned tobacco cultivation, they would be deprived of livelihood, said Chengal Reddy, president of the Federation of Farmers Association. He urged the Parliament members who participated in the awards function to bring it to the central government’s notice.
Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, MP from Guntur, said no voice was heard and no demand was considered without an agitation. Citing an example, he said that when he and some Andhra and Rayalaseema MPs had met AICC leader Vayalar Ravi in New Delhi recently they were told about the possibility of Telangana being granted statehood because there seemed no stiff opposition from the leaders and agitation by people of Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, and because the situation in the two regions presented a normal picture.Rao suggested to farmers not to grow tobacco in excessive areas in order to get good returns.
He also suggested that the Central Tobacco Research Institute and the Tobacco Institute of India jointly conduct seminars to create awareness among farmers on how to get maximum yield in a given area of cultivation. He called for imposition of ban on all imported cigarettes to help the local market grow.
Undavalli Arun Kumar, MP from Rajahmundry, said he would support the genuine demand of the farmers and if the government found it necessary to ban tobacco cultivation, it should provide alternatives to the farmers.
Later, Sambasiva Rao presented the Best Tobacco Farmer award to 14 farmers from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
The Tobacco Institute of India instituted the annual award to encourage the farming community to adopt modern and scientific agricultural practices which help enhance the quality of the crop and its yield, according to Uday Lal, TII director. CTRI director TGK Murthy and over 400 farmers from the two states participated.