The present Rajapaksa regime plundered the money saved by the farmer folk for a rainy day says the National Organizer of All Ceylon Farmers’ Federation and Member of Provincial Council Namal Karunaratna.
Speaking at a media conference held at Hotel Nippon at Slave Island in Colombo today (26th) Mr. Karunaratna said, “We, as a federation representing farmers in the country, presented 6 demands for the budget proposals. We also carried out agitations to win these demands. We asked for a discussion from the Ministry of Finance. We received a letter from the Ministry stating our letter had been received. However, we were never given a discussion.
959,000 farmers have contributed to the farmers’ pension scheme. The government annulled this fund. It was plundered. We asked the government to allocate funds from the budget to pay the farmers’ pension with arrears. As the price of a kilo of paddy is at Rs.31.25 we asked the guaranteed price of paddy to be raised to Rs.40 and legalize it through Parliament. We also asked the government to allocate funds for state seed laboratories as farmers cultivating soya, beet, pumpkin and other crops have been inconvenienced due to substandard seeds provided by multi-national companies. We asked the government to allocate funds to establish cold storage to protect vegetables and fruit from being destroyed. We asked to allocate funds to formalize electric fences in areas where human – elephant conflict exists.
As the government is unable to ignore farmers, a devious stunt has been played. Fund from farmers’ pension has been plundered. Now it is said the pension would be paid for farmers who are 63 years old. There is no talk about the arrears. Only Rs.1000 million has been allocated for farmers’ pension fund. The government has to pay two years’ arrears for farmers. When the pension scheme was stopped by the government 91,000 farmers were receiving the pension. During the last two years 60,000 more have qualified to receive the pension. We demand that all those who are qualified to receive the pension should be paid. The Agrarian Insurance Board has signed an agreement with farmers. Now the farmers have to pay the government until they are 63. We went to the Human Rights Commission against the termination of framers’ pension scheme. A large number of farmers came to Colombo for the first hearing. When the case was called for the second time a farmer had died of kidney disease. The government should take measures to pay the pension of these helpless farmers. The meager sum of money saved by farmers for a rainy day has been plundered by a looter, a rascal and now a small part of it is to be released due to public outcry. However, they talk as if they have released more than they have plundered.
The Minister of Agriculture Mahinda Yapa admitted that the production cost of a kilo of paddy is Rs.31.25. Now the production cost has gone further up. There was not a single word in the budget speech regarding the Rs.40 a kilo guaranteed price for paddy that we asked for. This is a just demand of the farmer and it should be fulfilled. Not a single cent needs to be spent to legalize the guaranteed price. It would benefit farmers Why didn’t the government add these two or three sentences to the budget speech? It is to protect the middlemen who buy paddy for a low price.
This government came to power with the votes of the farmer community. The President is adorned with a kurukkan shawl. He is shown walking along the weir of paddy fields on the TV. Is this how the President who claims to be from the farmer community treats agriculture? Farmers voted him with loyalty to bring him to power. Now those farmers are cheated.
We have built a massive farmers front at present. The government had to present a few proposals as a result of the struggle of this front. We would carry forward this struggle. We warn the government. We would give time till the 30th. There is still time to bring amendments to the budget. The farmers will take to the streets if there are no favourble responses. We would carry out poster, leaflet and agitation campaigns by next 2nd. Farmers dressed in loin clothes will be called to Colombo and protest campaigns carried out. As such, we ask the government not to leave room for the farmer community to take to the streets.”
The Vice President of the Federation T.B. Sarath addressing the media said, “Even before the budget we knew this government would deceive farmers. This is why we put forward 6 demands for the government and demanded allocations to fulfill them.
In 1948 the harvest of an acre was 75 bushels. At present it has come down to 40 to 45. This is where capitalist governments have taken our country towards. The production has come down. A situation has been created so that the farmer finds it difficult to meet his ends meet. The ownership of seeds in our country has been given to multi-national companies. Various kinds of diseases caused by bacteria, fungus, virus and insects have come to the country and cause havoc in agriculture. Pumpkin cultivation will have to be given up due to spread of bacteria and virus hazards. Harm to crops has multiplied due to substandard seeds.
The government doesn’t allocate funds for experiments on seeds or its production. The government has allocated Rs.300 million for seed production. However, farmers are not in a position to carry out experiments or produce seeds. This is a deception. Countries like Vietnam and China have increased their yield to 300 – 325 bushels per acre. The government doesn’t bring this technology to our country.
The government spent Rs.573 million to import seeds in 2005. It was increased to Rs.1071 in 2012. This is what the farmer son of Giruvapaththuwa has left to farmers in this country. There is no proposal in the budget to stop the process of importing seeds to this country. Seeds are brought from Singapore too. It is not an agricultural country. This is how our farmers are being exploited.
Through our experience we know the reason for diseases such as kidney, diabetics and gastritis is due to unhelthy the food we take. As a result, the farmer community is severely distressed. Dreadful amounts of insecticides, fungicides and pesticides are used for crops. People who eat such crops are subjected to various diseases. The so-called patriots in this government do not have the far-seeing knowledge regarding this. A vicious circle takes place due to the seed process in the country. The government is not interested in such happenings. As such action should be taken before the budget proposals are adopted for measured to have new seed laboratories as well as finding issues for genuine grievances of the farmer community.”
The Member of the Executive Committee Susantha Kumara Nawaratna also participated.