People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 11

March  13, 2011




Silk Growers, Weavers Protest Duty Free Silk Import


                                                                                      T Yashawanth


BRAVELY facing the hot summer sun and the police blockade, sericulture farmers, reelers, weavers and many others who are dependent on sericulture farming staged a huge protest rally and conducted a public meeting at Bangalore to oppose the government of India’s move to import duty free raw silk from China.


About five thousand protesters from Kolar, Chickaballapur, Ramanagar, Mandya and other parts of southern Karnataka took part in this protest action. Along with them were considerable numbers from Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh. The protesters urged the GoI in one voice to stop the duty free silk imports.


Thousands of agitators assembled at Bangalore on February 18 and marched towards the Central Silk Board office where their procession turned into a public meeting, in which many leaders including CPI(M) MP and member of Central Silk Board, Basudeb Acharia, and All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) general secretary K Varadharajan addressed the agitating farmers.


In his speech, Basudeb Acharia said the prices of chemicals, fertilisers and other inputs are increasing while, on the other hand, the price of cocoon is getting down. This has been a result of the anti-farmer policy pursued by the UPA government. If Chinese silk is imported into India without imposing any duty on it, its price will go below the production cost of silk grown by the indigenous farmers. It will definitely affect the life and livelihood of lakhs of farmers, reelers and weavers. Acharia criticised the irresponsibility of the finance minister’s reply when this issue was discussed with him; he said that his government would import silk from China and not from America. Whether goods are imported from America or China is not the question here. The crux of the matter is whether such imports adversely affect our producers. To ensure super profits for a few industrialists and big traders, the government is evidently going against the farmers, reelers and weavers, Acharia said. He announced amidst the thunderous applause from the gathering crowd that he would raise the issue in the forthcoming budget session of parliament. He urged upon the government to ensure smooth conduct of the parliament session, unlike the last session which was jeopardised by its adamant attitude on the issue of a JPC probe into the 2G scam.


Addressing the gathering, AIKS general secretary K Varadharajan extended greeting to the agitators and said he had come there as a representative of two crore members from among the farmers in different states. He said the government is involved in with scams worth more than Rs 2 lakh crore, like the 2G and 3G scams, but is not ready to solve the problems of the struggling farmers. Rises in the prices of all essential commodities is another big contribution of this government while, on the other hand, farmers are committing suicide for not getting adequate price for their produce. Dr Swaminathan’s recommendations on minimum support price to include the cost of production plus 50 per cent of the cost remains as yet unimplemented. Whether it is a matter of imports or of exports, it is only the big traders and big industries who are getting benefited at the cost of farmers.


On this occasion, Varadharajan invited all the agitating farmers to the March to Parliament being organised by the AIKS in the month of March to protest against the UPA government’s pro-rich and pro-MNC policies.


G C Bayya Reddy, general secretary of the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha (an affiliate of the AIKS) and organising convener of the All India Struggle Committee against Duty Free Silk Imports, said this protest rally was organised to convey our opposition to the duty free silk imports. Soon after the government’s notification on August 10, 2010 to import 2500 metric tonnes of raw silk of grade 3 and above, along with the already committed 7500 metric tonnes, the KPRS organised an all-India convention of farmers’ organisations, reelers and weavers, and the convention formed an All India Struggle Committee for the purpose. This struggle will continue until the government stops the import of duty free silk, he said.


Former CPI(M) MLA, G V Sreeram Reddy, also addressed the gathering. He said the government was telling a lie and misleading the nation when it said that duty free imports would benefit the poor weavers. More than 90 per cent of the weavers are labourers bound to serve one or another big weaving unit. In the name of weavers, in fact, it is the big traders and big industrialists who are garnering all the benefits, he said. He castigated the inaction of the BJP controlled state government of Karnataka and accused its sericulture minister of not being honest in understanding the difficulties of the silk growers.


Reddy further said the GoI has taken steps to import raw silk at the rate of Rs 2,700 per kg by reducing the import duty to 30.66 per cent which would further bring down the raw silk rate to Rs 1900 per kg. This will make the China silk available at Rs 120 to 150 per kg in the Indian market. He said this government is still contemplating to reduce the import duty on China silk to just 5 per cent in the immediate future to benefit the big traders and big industries.


At the end of the public meeting, Central Silk Board chairman Hanumanthappa was given a demands chater from the leaders of the All India Struggle Committee against duty free imports. He said he would discuss all the issues involved with the prime minister and convey to him the concerns of the farmers.


KPRS president Maruthi Manpade and other leaders of the Struggle Committee also spoke on the occasion.