This is the situation.
SHRI S. BANGARAPPA (SHIMOGA): You should translate it into English.
SHRI G.M. BANATWALLA : It means that we may be given to understand that you may not procrastinate; you may not delay. But by the time you rise and take action, we may be mixed with dust. That is the total extermination of the coconut. The agricultural economy is under threat.
I must, therefore, emphasise the need of expeditious decisions and they have to be taken as the coconut mite is on the spread. This pittance will not do. This pittance is not going to solve the problem and we will have to face very bad results of this pittance that is being offered.
Therefore, I must emphasise that in the case of every State, full assistance must be offered. The entire situation should be treated as a great national calamity.
I must say of the Coconut Board. We have also to come to the help of the farmers. They are in a pitiable condition and assistance will also have to be given, as has already been pointed out, to these farmers. I would like to know about some further things. The Coconut Board has asked for a research.
I told you about the leisurely manner in which we are proceeding and a sum of Rs. 3 lakh has been set aside for this research work, to meet the challenge put by this particular disease. Sir, let us know : When was the research project sanctioned? What is its present position? How long is it expected to take?
Sir, we are also told in your statement that when the Kerala Government approached you in the year 1998 for an assistance of Rs. 525 lakh, a pittance of Rs. 96 lakh was offered and released. Let us know when exactly was this amount of Rs. 96 lakh released. Let us also know whether this amount was fully utilised and if so, in what period of time. We are, in your statement, being told that this amount has been revalidated recently for utilisation during the year 1999-2000. What is the meaning of this? My English is rather poor. Therefore, I have to understand whether it means that a fresh amount of Rs. 525 lakh has been sanctioned and released for the year 1999-2000 or it means that the earlier amount though released was not utilised during that period and simply sanction is being given to utilise the earlier amount in the later years also.
Sir, I shall be glad if the pointed replies are given and we are assured, every State is assured of full assistance to meet this devastating pest that we are facing as far as the coconuts are concerned.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Now, have you asked the question?
SHRI G.M. BANATWALLA : Sir, I thank you. I shall restart for your benefit.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: I am asking about clarificatory question.
SHRI G.M. BANATWALLA : My pointed questions are there and I hope that the Government will shake up its lethargy, rise to the occasion and move with all the speed and give full assistance to every State and every farmer that has been affected.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Shri Kodikunnil Suresh.
SHRI RAMESH CHENNITHALA (MAVELIKARA): Sir, I have to catch flight.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: All right. Shri Ramesh Chennithala.
SHRI RAMESH CHENNITHALA (MAVELIKARA): Mr. Deputy-Speaker Sir, I share the views expressed by my hon. colleagues. The coconut farmers in Kerala are bleeding and the State Government and the Central Government are fiddling. As rightly pointed out by our hon. colleagues, the Governments - both the Central and the State- are sleeping. They are not taking seriously the issues of the coconut farmers in our State.
Sir, in your statement, you have mentioned about the devastating incidence of coconut mite in a large area. Now, it has affected almost all the districts of Kerala. Now, it is slowly spreading to the other States also. It is spreading slowly to your State also, Mr. Deputy-Speaker Sir, and also Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and other parts of the country. The poor coconut farmers are already facing a lot of problems. They are not getting remunerative prices and their products are not sold properly. At the same time, the cost of cultivation is going up. Alongwith that, now the incidence of coconut mite has created a very serious situation in our State.
The entire economy of Kerala is depending on the coconut farming.
Unfortunately, the Central Government and the State Government are taking this issue very casually. I do not want to go into the details of the coconut production in our country. Kerala is one of the States which has contributed a lot in this sector. The ten crore farmers who are engaged in this sector are either marginal or poor farmers. Even though the Government has set up the Coconut Development Board, it is unfortunate to note that the farmers living in the villages are not getting any benefit from this Board. The non-functioning of the Coconut Board has created this situation in our State. They are not looking after the farmers; they are not giving any kind of incentives to these farmers.
The hon. Minister has mentioned about CSIR, and CPCRI, which was started in 1989. But till now, nothing has happened. The callous manner in which the Central Government has taken note of this is made clear when you find that three lakh rupees were earmarked for research and development purpose. Can we accept this? It was started in 1989, but till now, no attention has been paid to this problem. Thousands of coconut trees were affected by this disease, and thousands of coconut farmers are suffering because of it. With three lakh rupees which were earmarked for research and development, how can any institution carry out any sort of research and development work? Look at other countries and see how they have tackled this problem. When Latin America and Brazil faced this problem, their scientists came forward and tackled this problem effectively. Is there any dearth of scientists or institutions in our country? What are the CPCRI and CSIR doing? These institutions are accountable to this Parliament. They are sleeping and they are not taking it very seriously. How much money are we spending on these institutions? As Shri Banatwalla rightly pointed out earlier, the coconut farmers are facing this mite problem along with other problems. So, it is the duty of the CSIR as well as the CPCRI to take care of this issue seriously and find out some kind of a remedy for it.
The Kerala Agricultural University has also suggested that spraying is a very dangerous thing. Shri Thomas also pointed out that it is dangerous. My point is that the Central Government and the State Government have not taken this issue very seriously. The Central Government has not given proper guidance to our research and development institutions to tackle this issue. It is very important to note that this disease is spreading to other States also. So, what is the reason behind this callous attitude?
Sir, I want to mention emphatically that it is not mere callousness; there is a lobby working behind this. The oil lobby is very strong in our country, and they are working against the interest of the coconut cultivators in our country. It is not mere callousness or negligence. They are intentionally doing this to help the oil lobby in our country, who are very powerful. Due to this oil lobby, we have suffered all these things. I also want to say that they are against the coconut farmers and coconut seed. They propagate that if we use coconut, then the cholesterol level will go up. But research and development says that it is absurd to say so. So, a particular lobby is influencing the people who are taking the decisions. So, my request to the hon. Minister, who is a young fellow, and we worked together for so many years in Parliament, is that he has to overcome this problem. He has to tighten or plug the loopholes.
He has to come forward and help the poor farmers of the State.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Now you ask the clarification.
SHRI RAMESH CHENNITHALA : Sir, I would like to mention that our State Government is also doing the same thing. When this disease cropped up, the State Government has not done anything. They are only sending representations to the Centre. Our Chief Minister has the habit of sending love letters to the Central Government. The Chief Minister never come to the Centre and ask for any assistance for our State. He would always write love letters to the Central Government and make statements ... (Interruptions) Anyway, I do not want to politicise the issue.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Shri Chennithala, you are such a senior Member and you should know that you can ask only one question.
SHRI RAMESH CHENNITHALA : Yes Sir, I know I am a senior Member but I wanted to mention that when such an issue cropped up in the State of Kerala and it was having a devastating effect on our economy, the State Government did not do anything. They even did not represent the case properly to the Central Government.
Sir, my request to the hon. Minister for Agriculture is that proper allocation should be made for the State of Kerala. The hon. Minister has given some assistance, which has been mentioned by him in his statement, but that is as a matter of routine allocation for purposes of coconut replantation and other things. But we want certain Central assistance to help the poor farmers
in our State. That is the most important thing. I would like to know whether the Ministry of Agriculture is contemplating to provide proper assistance to the farmers who are suffering owing to the disease of the coconut trees.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: You have just only clarification.
SHRI RAMESH CHENNITHALA : Sir, secondly, my request is that I am not saying that the hon. Minister should visit the State of Kerala, of course, he is always welcome to the State but alongwith him the senior officers should also come to our State and proper directions should be issued to the institutions which are responsible for research and development work.
Sir, I think, these issues would have to be taken very very seriously and proper assistance should be given by the Central Government to the State and should also see to it that the assistance reaches the poor farmers of the State.
SHRI KODIKUNNIL SURESH (ADOOR): Mr. Deputy-Speaker, Sir, I would not like to go into the details of the subject. I fully agree with the views which have been expressed by my colleagues here.
Sir, as you know, coconut cultivation has a very major role to play in the economy of Kerala. Lakhs of people, many with small holdings, depend on coconut cultivation for their living. A new mite disease called the mandari has created a havoc in the State by destroying the coconut crop on a large scale in many of the districts in the State of Kerala. This is a mysterious disease and nobody has been able to find a correct remedy to this. The Agriculture Minister of the State has attributed the cause of the disease as the handiwork of the Mumbai oil lobby. The hon. Minister for Agriculture of the Central Government has stated that this disease was noticed only ten months back but the Kerala Agricultural University has said that this disease was detected in September, 1997. This disease has added to the problems of the farmers of Kerala whose economy has already been shattered by the falling prices of rubber and other cash crops.
Sir, one thing is clear and that is, this disease is spreading very fast and farmers are in serious difficulty. I have four suggestions to make in this regard. First, the Centre should immediately send a team of experts to Kerala to study the situation and suggest immediate remedial measures. Second, the State alone is unable to handle the situation for want of funds and so, the Centre should extend necessary financial support to the State of Kerala for taking effective steps to improve the situation.
Hon. Agriculture Minister of Kerala requested the Central Government for Rs.100 crore in this regard. We expect the hon. Union Minister of Agriculture to sanction this amount and make an announcement to this effect during his reply.
My third point is, farmers' crops are lost and they are in serious financial problem. Centre should evolve some scheme, in consultation with the State, to give financial support to the affected farmers. Fourthly, a detailed research should be conducted to save Kerala's coconut cultivation from total destruction. The root wilt disease has already done severe damage to the coconut cultivation in the State. This disease is also growing unchecked. Therefore, I request the Central Government to intervene immediately in this serious matter. I also request the Minister to convene a meeting of Agriculture Ministers of all the southern States to discuss this problem.
SHRI SURESH KURUP (KOTTAYAM): Respected Deputy-Speaker, Sir, the magnitude of this problem has already been effectively highlighted by my esteemed colleagues here. As you know, coconut is the backbone of the agricultural economy of Kerala. The name of the State Kerala itself is derived from the word keran which means coconut tree. No other tree in any other part of the world is so intimately interwoven with the lives and livelihood of the people as this tree in Kerala is. Each and every part of this tree is useful right from the root to its fruit. My humble request is that the Central Government should take this problem, which affects the entire economy of Kerala, seriously.
Sir, as you know already, this tree is affected by root wilt disease. This root wilt disease was first reported in 1882 i.e., some hundred years back. Till this day no proper remedy has been found. Now this pest called mite has affected almost eleven districts of Kerala, not seven as mentioned by some hon. Members. Coconut trees in eleven districts of Kerala are affected. It is spreading to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and also Andhra Pradesh. So, as my friend Shri Thomas has already stated, this should be treated as a national calamity. This pest affects the nuts and the nuts become small and wrinkled. As a result of this it is very difficult to de-husk them. Since it is difficult to de-husk the nuts, they are rejected in the market. If this disease continues like this, entire tree population in Kerala and all the farmers there will be affected. Ninety-five per cent of them are small farmers.
I understand that the Minister of Agriculture is coming to Kerala next month for a programme. He can very well take some scientists with him. Government of Kerala is doing its best in this regard. Several meetings were conducted, several conferences were held and some spraying of chemicals was done as suggested by scientists. Our colleague Shri Chennithala used this occasion for scoring political points. Government of Kerala, within its
limited means, is doing everything possible. Perhaps our friend was thinking that every Government is like that of Orissa or every Chief Minister is like the Chief Minister of Orissa. It is not so. The only thing that Government of Kerala. ...(Interruptions)
SHRI K. MURALEEDHARAN (CALICUT): Sir, how can he bring the Chief Minister of Orissa into this? This is not correct.
SHRI SURESH KURUP : I was only saying that this occasion should not be used to score political points.
This occasion should not have been used for scoring political points. The only request that the Government of Kerala has made is that the Centre should allow sufficient funds. Government has requested for Rs.100 crore. My humble request is at least that amount should be sanctioned and a team of scientists should be sent to Kerala to evaluate whether the measures taken are proper. So, my pointed question is whether the Government intend to sanction this amount of Rs.100 crore and also whether the Government will send a team of scientists to the State and to all the affected States to evaluate the relief measures taken.
SHRI M.V.V.S. MURTHI (VISAKHAPATNAM): Andhra Pradesh is also involved.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: My difficulty is that this rule does not permit me to give you any chance to speak.
SHRI M.V.V.S. MURTHI : In Andhra Pradesh, particularly Konaseema is an area where there is lot of coconut. There is a Coconut Research Centre.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Even if I have to give you permission, I will be violating the rules here. Therefore, you can put just one question. Not more than that. But this will not be a precedent. I permit you as a special case considering the seriousness of the problem.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: No. It will not go on record.
SHRI A.C. JOS (TRICHUR): On behalf of Lakshadweep also, I demand that the hon. Minister should reply.
MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: You can interrupt on behalf of Lakshadweep!
SHRI M.V.V.S. MURTHI : In Andhra Pradesh, Konaseema area is only having a coconut garden. There is no other crop. Konaseema has a Coconut Research Centre at Ambajipeta. During the 1996 debacle of the cyclone, two-thirds of the coconut trees have fallen down. So, only one-third of the trees remain which are also attacked by pests now. Unless urgent measures are taken to eliminate that disease, the people will be put to irreparable loss. Konaseema is in the Constituency of the Hon.Speaker and I belong to that Constituency. So, I would request the hon. Minister to take into account the needs of the medicines and other things of Konaseema also. Thank you very much.
SHRI K. FRANCIS GEORGE (IDUKKI): The gravity of the problem is understood by the hon. Minister and by the House also. I am just asking the hon. Minister whether he will consider again as. It is mentioned here that coconut is declared as an oilseed long back when the National Front Government was in power. If it is declared as an oilseed, naturally the assistance which is due to oilseeds should have been given. Even at this late stage, when coconut farmers and coconut are facing a serious problem like this, will the Government and the hon. Minister consider to declare coconut as an oilseed and sanction assistance accordingly? An assistance of Rs.100 crore which is needed to solve this problem should be made. I would like to know when the Government plans to sanction this Rs.100 crore of Central assistance. The hon. Minister may respond to these two points.