Bengaluru: Karnataka's Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah on Thursday slammed the Central government's decision to import green areca nut from Bhutan, saying that due to the "ill-willed policy, the life of areca nut growers will be doomed".
The areca nut growers are already in distress because of various diseases attacking the crop and areca trees. During this difficult hour, the central government has betrayed them, he said.
The notification giving unconditional consent to the purchase of 17,000 metric tons of raw areca nut from Bhutan will prove costly and affect the livelihood of local areca nut growers, he said, adding that while the state areca nut farmers are agitating for a total ban on imports, the Centre has exhibited its "unilateral and arbitrary approach".
"The Union government, which has adopted an egoistic approach towards farmers, has not even laid down conditions for the specified minimum import price (MIP) and shown green signal for import of areca nut from Bhutan. The central government has also indicated more imports from different countries in future," Siddaramaiah said.
"I had warned when the Central government brought down excise tax on imported areca nuts and increased the GST on indigenous areca nuts. I had also prevailed upon the state government to make the Union government understand the situation of areca nut farmers. However, it is proved that the 'probationary' Chief Minister (Basavaraj Bommai) does not have capacity to talk to the Central government on farmers' woes," he added.
Noting that the farmers of Malnad (hilly) region have complained about the state and Central governments turning blind eye to their plight, he said that their worst fears have come true now, and the decision to import 17,000 tons of areca nut from Bhutan is the height of betrayal.
Siddaramaiah said that Home Miniister Araga Jnanendra, who heads the Task Force formed to look into the woes of areca nut farmers, is maintaining that imports will have no bearing. "The government and the Home Minister do not have common sense that these things won't solve the crisis of farmers," he said.
He also noted that the BJP's Karnataka President, national and state General Secretaries hail from regions where areca nut farming is taken up on large scale, but have not responded and the MLAs and MPs of the districts where the crop is grown are also tightlipped.
All are colluding to write the death warrant of areca nut farmers, Siddaramaiah alleged, demanding that the consent given to imports from Bhutan must be immediately reversed, GST on areca nuts reduced, and the state government should exert pressure on the Centre in this regard.