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Wednesday, Oct 11, 2006

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Tobacco Board moots welfare measures for growers

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Panel set up to look into the issue & make suggestions

Guntur , Oct.10

The Tobacco Board has accumulated as much as Rs 100 crore, collected from farmers as punitive cess for growing surplus crop; and the board intends to take up a series of welfare measures for the farmers with the amount, according to Dr Y. Sivaji, the President of the Andhra Pradesh Tobacco Growers' Association.

In a statement on Tuesday, he said the Board had constituted a committee to go into the issue and suggest suitable welfare measures and schemes. "In principle, the board has agreed that the punitive cess should not be diverted for any other purpose and it should be used to promote the welfare of farmers," he said.

Mr Sivaji said the committee, which met here on Monday, has suggested an innovative welfare scheme to the Board. "When a tobacco farmer dies, Rs 5 should be collected from the 40,000 registered farmers in the State, amounting to Rs 2 lakh and the Board should give a matching grant of Rs 2 lakh and the total (Rs 4 lakh) should be handed over to the family of the farmer within a few days. The contribution of the individual farmers can be deducted from the sale proceeds later," he stated.

Helping hand

Such a scheme will be of great help to farmers, he said. The education and health of farmers was of equal importance and the committee had discussed these issues too. Ten deserving students, hailing from farmers' families, would be chosen under each of the 21 auction floors and their educational expenses would be borne by the Board, it was suggested.

Regarding medical care for farmers, it was suggested that a janata insurance policy, with a cover of up to Rs 25,000 per farmer per annum, would be taken out and the premium of Rs 258 would be paid by the board. Besides, a sum of Rs 50 lakh per annum would be paid to a government hospital to take care of the medical needs of the farmers. It was also decided that if farmers require a more expensive treatment the Board would take care of it.

Dr Sivaji pointed out that for the past six to seven years there was absolutely no budgetary support for the Tobacco Board from the Centre. "The Coffee Board, the Tea Board, the Spices Board etc. are being given huge budgetary support. The Tobacco Board has been collecting punitive cess for several years from farmers. Therefore, these schemes should be taken up immediately. It can be done comfortably, without seeking any support from the Union Government," he added.

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