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Gutka: Government may move Supreme Court

S. Rajendran

The Centre has banned the sale of gutka in plastic sachets

Bangalore: Karnataka, largely with the aim of protecting the interests of the large number of arecanut growers, is expected to move the Supreme Court against the decision of the Centre which has banned the sale of gutka in plastic sachets. The apex court had ordered against the sale of gutka in sachets following which the Centre issued a notification banning such sales about a week ago.

This apart, a proposal will be submitted to the Centre seeking introduction of a market support price of Rs. 120 a kg for red arecanut and Rs. 90 a kg. for white arecanut as per the recommendations of an expert committee. Based on the price fixed by the Centre, the State Government will provide an incentive of Rs. 600 a quintal of arecanut. In addition, the State Government will provide Rs.100 crore to all arecanut cooperative societies from the agricultural revolving fund of the State.

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who represents Shikaripur in the Assembly, has taken the lead in fighting for the problems of the growers who have been hard hit following the Central ban. Gutka manufacturers are one of the largest purchasers of arecanut from the growers here and following the ban have stopped all purchases, resulting in the growers being pushed to the wall. Shikaripur in Shimoga district is one among the taluks in the Western Ghats where areca is grown in abundance.

K. Narasimha Nayak, president of the Karnataka Arecanut Marketing Federation and vice-president of the Malnad Arecanut Growers' Society told The Hindu that areca growers were facing a distress with the price per quintal of arecanut declining sharply from Rs. 15,000 a quintal to about Rs. 11,000.

At a high-level meeting in Bangalore on Monday, the Chief Minister said: “the interests of growers will be protected. If need be, the State Government will file a petition against the Centre in the Supreme Court over the ban on the sale of gutka in sachets”.

Mr. Yeddyurappa said a delegation of arecanut growers of the State will be taken to New Delhi to prevail upon the Centre to reconsider its decision of banning sale of gutka in plastic sachets.

“It is not that we want to move the apex court right away. Going to the court will be the last step. Karnataka accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the areca nut produced in the country and it is the duty of the Government to protect the interests of the growers.”

Sources in the Agriculture Department said that arecanut is now grown in 20 districts of the State. Karnataka is the front-runner in terms of area under areca cultivation and production. Earlier, production of arecanut was confined to Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Shimoga, Chikmagalur and Kodagu districts and this had now extended to several other non-traditional areas given the fact that areca is a good money crop. A sudden rise in prices of arecanut in the last decade had also attracted the farmers, growing food crops in other districts of the state, towards this commercial crop.

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