Sunday August 14, 2022

Drive against tobacco cultivation enters decisive phase in KP

By Our Correspondent
December 27, 2021

SWABI: The drive against tobacco cultivation has entered a decisive phase and the farmers are holding jirgas and meetings to convince the growers for observing Tobacco Holiday2022 in the province.

Farmers’ leaders, including Arif Khan, Liaqat Khan Yousafzai, Muhammad Ali Dagiwal, Syed Inayat Ali Shah Bacha, Abid Ali, Asfandyar, Shahab Khan and others are spearheading the drive under the banner of Ittehad-e-Kashtkaran, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Loya Jirga comprising the said leaders are holding meetings with tobacco farmers in Swabi, Mardan and Charsadda districts to convince them not to cultivate the crop for at least one year.

Last year, the companies did not purchase the entire produce from the growers and a handsome quantity of tobacco is still lying in their godowns, which inflicted huge losses on the farmers.

Since September last, the growers have been running a vigorous campaign against the tobacco cultivation to protest the alleged excesses and exploitation of national and multinational companies, alleged indifferent attitude of Pakistan Tobacco Board and government for not giving a reasonable price and levying heavy taxes on the produce.

They staged a protest sit-in for their rights in Yar Hussain and Chota Lahor for 42 days but the government and the tobacco companies did not bother to listen to their complaints.

The leaders alleged that Swabi district administration also tortured tobacco growers and arrested several farmers during a peaceful protest on November 8 last. They were later sent to Haripur Central Prison.

The leaders of Ittehad-e-Kashtkaran, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Loya Jirga have now presented a 10-point Charter of Demands to the government and the tobacco companies.

The leaders said that growers in Swabi district and elsewhere in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were faced with a host of problems but the government’s relevant departments have failed to safeguard their interests.

The tobacco growers, they said, were the worst affected segment of the farmers’ community as they were being fleeced by the tobacco companies as well as the government departments, including the PTB, without providing them any relief and facilities.

They said that tobacco products contributed Rs135 billion to the federal exchequer while Rs980 million went to the provincial kitty in the shape of tobacco development Cess but the growers were still leading a life from hand to mouth.

The farmers’ leaders vowed that the campaign would be continued to convince the farmers through jirgas and meetings to boycott the tobacco cultivation.

Meanwhile, the PTB has circulated a poster informing the growers not to cultivate tobacco if they have not signed a contract/agreement for the purchase of the upcoming crop.

The tobacco companies have also not announced a quota for the ensuing crop, which was supposed to be made public in October last.