Farmers’ no to entry of private players
The Government’s decision in April to throw open the opium sector to private corporates has drawn stiff opposition from farmers. The plan is to allow private corporates to produce concentrate of poppy straw to make pain relievers. Currently, licensed farmers are allowed to sell poppy plants only to two state- run opium and alkaloid factories. The licensees will be allowed to use a new technology— concentrate of poppy straw— for extracting opium. The Government thinks this will prevent leakages from the farms.
“The plan to allow the private sector will eventually lead to closing down of public sector units and will affect the livelihood of farmers,” says Shailendra Singh Thakur of the Opium and Alkaloid Factory Workers’ Union. Even the Congress is a divided house on the issue.“The Government should make sure farmers are heard before taking any decision,” says Meenakshi Natrajan, Mpfrom Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. District Congress leaders, however, accuse her of not doing enough.“As an MP, she is not speaking on behalf of opium farmers. This makes one wonder if she is acting on behalf of private sector players,” alleges former Mandsaur district Congress president Surender Sethi.