Rubber farmers unhappy with govt, poll promises

They want an increase in the support price for natural rubber and a policy to attract more industries that use rubber as raw material
In Piravom, Pala and Kanjirappally constituencies, parties promise to raise the support price of natural rubber.  A large billboard erected by UDF on the Piravom-Pala road pledges to hike the support
In Piravom, Pala and Kanjirappally constituencies, parties promise to raise the support price of natural rubber. A large billboard erected by UDF on the Piravom-Pala road pledges to hike the support

ERNAKULAM/ KOTTAYAM: Pradeep K Isaac and Isaac P Elias, two rubber farmers in Piravom, were having a discussion on the hard times they had been facing due to rising cost of cultivation and low returns when TNIE caught up with the duo at Kozhikottikavu junction on the Piravom – Pala road. 

Joy Manakkal, a rubber farmer of
Vallavoor in Pala | Albin Mathew

They have been into rubber farming for the past several years on land which have been bequeathed by ancestors. With the stage set for yet another assembly election in the state, both feel that successive governments in Kerala had failed to provide any support to  farmers who have been severely hit by the fall in prices of natural rubber (NR) and rise in input costs. “Rubber farming is no more a main income earner for a farmer. We are forced to take up other jobs to provide a decent living for our families,” said  Pradeep K Isaac, 50, who owns a two-acre rubber farm. 

Isaac Elias, 42, voiced the same concern and said that politicians whom they elected in the past had failed them. “Political parties come up with tall promises during elections. The promise to increase the support price of one kg of natural rubber to Rs 250 is nothing but mere eyewash. We really don’t believe them,” said Isaac.    

In Piravom and Pala constituencies, both the LDF and the UDF have touched upon the highly sensitive issue of hiking the minimum support price (MSP) for natural rubber to win over  rubber farmers who make up majority of the voters. While the UDF has put up huge hoardings promising to hike the support price of natural rubber to Rs 250 if voted to power, the LDF, in its election manifesto, has vowed to raise the support price for natural rubber to Rs 250 from Rs 170. But the farmers aren’t happy with the LDF government either, because in the last five years the government failed to look into their issues. 

Pradeep  said people have great expectations from UDF candidate Anoop Jacob. “Being a small party, which has only one representative in the assembly, Anoop has a lot of limitations. But he has great acceptance among  voters in the constituency. Our main demand is to increase the support price for natural rubber and have a policy to attract more local industries that use natural rubber as raw material,” he added.  
Isaac, who now operates an earth mover to earn that extra money, said, “Politicians one after the other have been cheating rubber farmers after making tall promises. The LDF government did the same.  Though the fight between the UDF and the LDF candidate is going to be tight, UDF candidate Anoop Jacob has an advantage,” he said.In Pala, farmers said though successive governments had let them down, they stood with the late Kerala Congress supremo K M Mani since the people of Pala had a special affection for him. 

“We know that the political leaders who represented us in the assembly over the years hadn’t done anything much for our welfare. But we voted for K M Mani because he had a special connect with the people of Pala,” said Joy Mannakkal, 65, a rubber farmer at Vallavoor in Pala.  Joy has been toiling hard in his rubber plantation from a very young age and he had decided against allowing his children to follow suit. “I didnt want my children to face the crisis which I have faced as a rubber farmer. So I gave them quality education and now they are in other professions,” he added.  

Raju V Jose, another rubber farmer who also runs a rubber nursery in Pala, said the contest between the UDF and the LDF in Pala will be tight this time. “We will witness a tough contest this time in Pala,” 
he said.

AJAY KANTH

Reporting from Piravom/Pala

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