Friday, Aug 23, 2002
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By Our Staff Correspondent
However, the behaviour of the growers, most of them who had come from other districts, in front of Mr. Fernandes during Wednesday's function here was atrocious. Just as the Coffee Board member and office-bearer of the All-India Coffee Industry Action Committee (AICIAC), B.B. Subbaiah got on to the dais to make announcements on the arrival of the minister at the Town Hall, growers owing allegiance to the Karnataka Growers' Federation (KGF) started shouting slogans asking him to get out of the away.
The boisterous growers did not stop the slogans even after Mr. Fernandes arrived on the scene. They wanted the office-bearers of the KGF accommodated on the dais. The noise died down only when the KGF President, Attikatte Jagannath, went to the dais amid wild applause.
This brings to the fore the serious differences between the KGF and the AICIAC. The latter is said to be a body comprising all involved in the industry such as growers, traders, curers, and labour representatives. The KGF maintains that it is only a body of the growers. The developments at the Town Hall only exposed to the public the differences of opinion between the KGF and the AICIAC. The growers who had come from outside Kodagu outnumbered those from the district. Barring a few who are in the forefront of the movement, and a few growers from Kodagu, it seemed as if not much importance was attached to the Defence Minister's visit. Some were of the opinion that Mr. Fernandes was the wrong choice, while others were convinced that something good would happen to the industry.
The criticism that some growers from Kodagu still cherished the "club culture" seems to be valid. Agitations organised at several places in the district in recent days have seen participants gather in large numbers initially but drift way quickly. Though growers from far off areas such as Thitimathi, Kutta, Srimangala, Gonicoppa, Ammathi, Somwarpet, Kodlipet, and Shanivarasante in Kodagu came here, they could not gain entry into the packed Town Hall.
However, neither the ministers hailing from Kodagu nor the other elected representatives thought it fit to be present. While the elected representatives rallied around the areca and other lobbies, they appeared to have little concern for the coffee growers. On the other hand, the growers' associations from Kodagu too failed to rope in their MPs, MLAs, MLCs, and zilla panchayat members.
While the behaviour of the growers on Wednesday was unruly, it should be said that only such actions draw the attention of the authorities. It was only because growers came from other coffee growing areas and made a forceful plea that Mr. Fernandes said that if their problems were not addressed soon, it could lead to a major crisis. Mr. Fernandes did not mince words in asking the growers not to bring politics into play while arguing for relief. He made it clear that if he had not been convinced of the genuine problems of the growers and a person interested in the welfare of the labour force involved in the industry, he would not have come here.
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