The rubber sector, which has about 1.3 million rubber farmers contributing to a ₹1-lakh crore industry, is in turmoil amid concerns that the Centre plans to repeal the Rubber Act of 1947.
The very existence of the Rubber Board, the system of licensing, extension, replanting, research, subsidies, control over export-import and a host of other support systems depend on the Act. Withdrawal of the Act would empower the Centre to disband the board and end the present system of rubber farming, growers’ representatives fear.
Jose K. Mani, MP, asserted that any ‘move to repeal the Rubber Act’ is a ‘declaration of war against the people’.
But sources in the sector suspect that reports of the likely repeal of the Act, which first surfaced in 2016, was the result of a ‘clerical error.’ The Union government had drawn up a list of obsolete Acts to be repealed. The Rubber and Tea Acts got into the list and since then there have been apprehensions about the future of these Acts.
Rubber Board chairman K.N. Raghavan said on Saturday that the board had sent a proposal for amendments to the Rubber Act to make it reflect the current scenario. He had not received any proposal for the repeal of the Act, he said.
Mr. Mani, representing Pala, the heart of rubber country in Kerala, said rubber was a strategic product that needed government support, but that over the years the Centre had ignored the sector by cutting financial allocations.
Shajimon Jose, rubber farmer and secretary, Chirakkadavu Rubber Producer Society in Kanjirappally said rubber farmers had fallen on hard times and reports of a possible withdrawal of the Act were disappointing.
The Rubber Act came into being in 1947 to promote natural rubber, a strategic product, entrusting the task to the Rubber Board. The sector has since grown to comprise 8.22 lakh hectares of cultivation and 13.2 lakh small cultivating units.