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Coffee growers threaten non-cooperation movement

By Our Staff Correspondent

HASSAN, JAN. 12. The Karnataka Growers Federation, a representative body of coffee growers of the Malnad districts, will launch a non-cooperation movement against financial institutions if they failed to consider the problems of growers, the President of the federation, Attikatte Jagannath, has said. In a release here on Monday, Mr. Jagannath alleged financial institutions had filed cases against growers for collecting dues, though the institutions were aware of the problems faced by growers. The financial institutions had failed in responding "favourably'' to the appeals by the federation, he added.

He urged the financial institutions to convene an emergency meeting to discuss and thrash out the issue or they would face non-cooperation by growers. He condemned the move by the financial institutions to file cases against growers in the Debt Relief Tribunal and courts. He alleged that though the Government had announced a relief package for growers, it had not notified it, and the promises made by the Union Government had not been fulfilled. The coffee industry was in a crisis due to droughts in the Malnad region, he added.

He regretted that though the problems of growers had been brought to the notice of the Union and State Governments, they had not taken them seriously. In view of this, it had been decided to hold hobli-level meetings to educate growers on the apathy of the Governments and instil confidence in them, he said. He accused the Commissionerate of Regional Provident Fund of harassing growers during harvesting season and of filing cases against them. The federation had decided to stage a dharna in front of the Provident Fund Commissionerate in protest against this, he said.

He noted that the federation had urged the Union Government to bring plantation works under the "Anna Anthyodaya'' Scheme to save the coffee industry. Criticising the MPs of the region for their apathy towards the coffee industry, he said if the MPs failed to respond to the plight of the growers, the federation would organise rallies against them.

Mr. Jagannath also criticised the Coffee Board for its alleged unilateral decisions by keeping the growers in the dark. He alleged that the Coffee Board had failed to safeguard the interests of growers and said that the federation wrote a "protest letter'' condemning the Board's attitude.

`Ban political meetings'

Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, the former President of the federation, B.A. Jagannath, said the federation had decided to ban political meetings in the coffee-growing region till its demands were met. He said politicians should not play with the life of growers and they had to solve the problems of growers before holding political meetings in their areas.

He alleged that despite several appeals from growers, who were in distress due to droughts, the Governments had not taken their problems seriously. He said the Government should waive interest and principal on loans borrowed by growers till 2001 and provide an opportunity to them to repay the loan borrowed after 2001 at a simple interest of six per cent.

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