The recent statements of Union Health Minister Harshvardhan make it evident that the Centre is keen on prohibiting tobacco cultivation across the country in a phased manner. In the wake of this, the Agriculture Department is planning to take up a drive to persuade tobacco growers to grow alternative crops such as hybrid maize, cotton, jowar and vegetables which are also remunerative.
The department is planning to provide facilities to farmers who shift to alternative crops to help their easy transition. It is planning to provide seeding and fertiliser to the farmers to ensure that the shift does not impact them economically.
M. Mahanteshappa, Joint Director of Agriculture, said that the department plans to organise for tobacco growers, interactive sessions with agriculture scientists, agriculture officers, and social thinkers to prepare them mentally to switch over to alternative crops.
He said that tobacco growers have been getting many facilities from the Tobacco Board which would help them secure loans from banks. Mahanteshappa added that farmers will be prepared mentally to sustain a little loss.
Meanwhile, the tobacco growers’ federation is reluctant to switch over to other crops. General secretary Vikram Raj Urs said that they had tried cultivating a few alternative crops some years ago but it had failed to get them even half the income they had been deriving from cultivating tobacco.
He said that the federation was aware that health and economy was being affected with the use of tobacco products. “We too are concerned about the society but we have to think of our existence,” Urs said while agreeing to take part in the programmes to be organised by the Agriculture Department.
Urs said the government should know that the ban would add to the unemployment issue and hit its major revenue source. Based on the facilities given by the government, we will think over switching over to other crops, he added.