Tobacco growers urge govt to cut excise duty

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Bangalore, Apr 11 (UNI) Karnataka Tobacco Growers Forum today urged the Centre to cut the excise duty hiked in the Budget for 2008-09 from 150 per cent to 400 per cent, on non-filter cigarettes as the additional burden would affect more than 35 lakh farmers and their families who are depending on tobacco cultivation.

Addressing a press conference here, Federation President S M Ananthram alleged that the hike in excise duty to such an inorbitant level would reduce 30 per cent of tobacco production in the state, which at present produces about 95 mn kgs of tobacco.

He said ''at a time when the government is claiming that farmers' income must be protected and farmers welfare priotorised, it is strange that it has pronto winning to risk the lives of tobacco growers.

''What is mystifying is that the Union Finance Minister has considered non-filter cigarettes to be equally toxic as filter cigarettes and imposed astronomical excise duty while completely protecting Beedis and gutkha which are far more toxic than any other form of tobacco consumption.'' Replying to a question, he said the forum will soon sent a delegation to Delhi and appraise the concerned ministers the difficulties of tobacco growers. ''We are confident that Mr Chidambaram would consider our demand and save lakhs of farmers depending on tobacco cultivation''.

Forum founder and Honorary President L Ananda said ''we are ready to give up cultivation of tobacco provided the government comes out with alternative crop which can fetch the same income to the farmers.'' UNI MSP KK AS1834

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