Tobacco: A word of caution from Naidu

Naidu reminded that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned about the evil effects of consuming tobacco and the ministry of health has been trying to see that the area under cultivation for tobacco crop is progressively reduced.

BJP MP G V L Narasimha Rao on Monday wanted the government to help distressed tobacco farmers but a word of caution came from Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, who cited concerns raised by World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as the problem of a liberal policy leading to glut in the market and distress sale.

Raising the issue during the Zero Hour in the Rajya Sabha, Rao said that the farmers are not getting remunerative prices as they are not able to produce quality tobacco in the past five years due to frequent drought.

Citing that the government extended a compensation package to the farmers for the low quality of tobacco produced in Andhra Pradesh in 2015, Rao said that the ministry of commerce should lend a "similar helping hand" to them.

However, Naidu reminded that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned about the evil effects of consuming tobacco and the ministry of health has been trying to see that the area under cultivation for tobacco crop is progressively reduced.

"Secondly, if you are liberal with regard to permission to grow more, there will be glut in the market and there will be distress sale. That has been experienced earlier also. So, keeping these two things in mind, the government and MPs should engage themselves and try to find out a solution and guide the farmers progressively to slowly go in for alternative crops," he said.

In his speech, Rao also wanted the 15% penalty levied on additional production than the permissible quantity to be waived off as the overall production in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka is actually less than the authorised quantity.

Another suggestion from Rao was that the licensing regime for tobacco cultivation needs to be more liberalised and reviewed.

He said that if the government wants to discourage farmers from continuing with tobacco cultivation, the farmers should be given assistance to switch over to other crops.

“This is actually yielding substantial export earnings for the country, but if we choose to switch to other crops, I think, a stable and long-term policy needs to be devised," he said.

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