The LDF government in Kerala on Thursday rejected the opposition UDF's allegations that it was not addressing the plight of farmers and the agriculture sector in the state was in doldrums.
The Left Front contended that the Congress-led UDF's allegations were baseless and politically motivated as the state government has been taking steps to protect the interests of the farmers and the agricultural sector in Kerala as a whole.
State Agriculture Minister P Prasad said in the Assembly that the agricultural sector was affected by the adverse policies of the Centre and climate changes, despite which the state government was working to help the farmers.
Prasad, responding to a notice moved by UDF MLA Sunny Joseph seeking to adjourn the House to discuss the plight of farmers in Kerala, also said the LDF has followed through on the promises made by it.
Moving the notice, Joseph, MLA from Peravoor, alleged the Left government betrayed rubber cultivators by not increasing the minimum support price as promised, delayed payment to rice farmers for grains collected which forced them to move the Kerala High Court for the same and did not compensate farmers for losses due to natural calamities and animal attacks.
"It has become difficult to survive on agricultural income in the state," he claimed.
Denying the allegations, Prasad contended that the government has paid rice farmers more than Rs 1,900 crore for the over 7.31 lakh tonne grains collected from them and only around Rs 91 crore remained to be disbursed.
He said a cabinet sub-committee and an expert panel have been constituted to deal with rice grain collection from farmers and ensure timely payments to them.
The minister said to ensure timely payments to rice farmers, the government entered into an arrangement with some banks under which farmers were issued paddy receipt sheets (PRS) against which they can get the amounts owed to them as loans from banks.
"The state pays the interest on the loans and not the farmers," he said.
Additionally, coconut production was being encouraged, rubber production incentives were being provided where required, farmers were paid in full for vegetables procured from them by Horticorp before Onam and the government was taking steps to double the income of farmers by 2026.
Prasad alleged that it was the Congress-led UDF which during its rule did not implement several agricultural schemes despite setting aside funds for them.
In view of the minister's stand, Speaker A N Shamseer rejected the motion to adjourn the House as sought by the UDF.
Hitting back at the Left front and the minister, Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Assembly V D Satheesan said it was the ruling front which was not implementing development packages worth several thousand crores for farmers.
Satheesan said according to replies given in the House by the government, it has no information regarding implementation of or fund allocations under the Rs 12,000 crore Idukki development package.
He also referred to a Rs 7,000 crore Wayanad development package and said that the government has only spent Rs 71 crore under that in the last seven years.
The LoP alleged that coconut collection was not happening properly, the Rubber Board had ruined the rubber sector in the state and never in Kerala's history has the state seen such a delay in payment to farmers.
Regarding the PRS system, Satheesan alleged that the banks stopped giving loans to farmers under that scheme as the government was not paying the interest.
As the loans became pending, the CIBIL scores of farmers went down resulting in a situation where they will not get loans from any other banks, he claimed.
He also alleged even the hundreds of crores set aside by the state government in its budgets for 2022-23 and 2023-24 were not being utilised properly.
"In view of the government's neglect of the farmers and the refusal to discuss the issue raised in the adjournment motion, by party is staging a walkout," Satheesan said.
Subsequently, the entire Congress-led UDF opposition staged a walkout.
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