Coconut farmers of Kerala, copra, coir and oil

Kerala's Coconut Farmers and Tamil Nadu's Textile Workers are starved to Enrich Hindian Businesses

Lalitha Krishnan Nair

TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2001 (ID.2001-07-02)

Click here for MAIN INDEX to archived articles (main page)
www.tamiltribune.com

Definitions:
Hindians: People whose mother tongue is Hindi (similar to Tamil speakers are sometimes referred as Tamilans or Tamilians).

Outline

1. Coconut Farmers of Kerala

2. Textile Workers of Tamil Nadu

1. Coconut Farmers of Kerala

Coconut trees provide life and sustenance to large numbers of Keralite farmers. Kerala's climate is ideal for coconut farming. In a way, coconut trees are the sustainer of life in the rural farming communities of Kerala for centuries. Coconut leaves are used for roofing. The "central stem" of the leaves is used as firewood. Tree trunk is wood for building houses. Coconut husk is used to weave coir. Coconut hull is used as cup for drinking liquid and even to serve food sometimes. Coconut juice is an excellent cool drink--more nutritious and tastier than "modern" bottled cool drinks. Coconut meat is an excellent food. Tender coconut meat mixed in its own juice is a great snack--tasty and filling. Mature coconut meat is used in cooking (in curries). While these are all day-to-day uses in coconut farming communities for centuries and millennia, what brings cash to the community is coconut oil. It is coconut oil that generates cash to the farmers to maintain a decent life; to buy rice and other food items, buy clothes, send children to school, etc., etc. It is the coconut oil that drove the coconut farming economy in the last several decades. Coconut oil is used (or "was" used) as cooking oil in many parts of India for generations. This brought in cash for the coconut farmers.

All was well and good until the Indian Government struck a shattering blow to the coconut farming economy. By a stroke of the pen, the Indian Government reduced the import tax on palm oil, and cheap palm oil flooded India from foreign countries. Families and restaurants throughout India started using palm oil in lieu of coconut oil because it is now much cheaper than the latter, thanks to the Indian Government slashing import tax. (This same Indian Government is keeping import taxes on cement high even as domestic cement prices skyrocket, in order to fatten the profits of Indian cement producers who are mostly from the Hindi belt and nearby areas.) 

To make matters worse, in May 2001, the Indian Government signed an agreement with Malaysia that would allow the import of approximately 70 lakh (7 million) tons of Malaysian palm oil during the next 5 years. This is very bad news for the coconut farmers of Kerala because this would further undercut coconut prices. This is like pushing a man or woman from a sinking boat into floodwaters giving him/her no chance to survive!

The reason why the Indian Government chose to sign this agreement to import a whopping 70 lakh tons of palm oil from Malaysia during the next 5 years, in spite of Kerala's coconut farm crisis, exposes the step-motherly treatment non-Hindi people receive from the Hindian dominated Indian Government. In exchange for the import of such a large quantity of palm oil from Malaysia, Malaysia will award a 5-year railway-building contract worth approximately 8000 crore Rupees (80 billion Rupees) to Indian Railway Construction Company. This contract helps workers primarily from the Hindi belt and nearby areas! In short, the Indian Government is starving Kerala's coconut farmers to help Hindi belt workers and businesses.

This is not an isolated incident. TAMIL TRIBUNE has published details of several cases of such discriminatory acts. We will close this article by giving one more example. An example from Kerala's neighbor Tamil Nadu.

2. Textile Workers of Tamil Nadu

Just across Palghat from Kerala is Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore, the textile capital of India. Textile industry in Coimbatore and surrounding areas employs several lakh workers (10 lakh = 1 million). A feature of Tamil Nadu's textile industry is that they are owned by local business people, and not by the giant textile corporations from northern India. Indian Government's textile and yarn import-export policies have been discriminatory towards these smaller businesses and favorable to the larger textile corporations. This has resulted in the closure of more than half the mills and looms in Tamil Nadu during the last decade, resulting in the unemployment of hundreds of thousands of Tamil Nadu workers. Representations from textile business owners and labor unions to the Indian Government fell into deaf ears. To make matters worse, the Indian Government enacted a new textile industry policy that dooms the small and medium size textile businesses in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh (both non-Hindi states) but helps the large textile businesses owned by business houses from the Hindi belt and nearby areas. 

What is this new policy? Until recently power-looms came under the small-scale sector and thus protected from the giant textile corporations. Recently the Indian Government removed it from the small-scale sector and now the giant Reliance Group and Mafatlal Group (both from northern India) can compete with the smaller textile businesses of Tamil Nadu and other non-Hindi, southern states. The Indian Government also provides subsidies and import tax reductions to these giant corporations to import expensive modern equipment that takes away business from the smaller south Indian textile companies.

As in the case of the coconut farmers of Kerala, the resulting large-scale unemployment of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh textile workers does not concern the Indian Government. The Hindi politicians who dominate the Indian parliament and thus control the Indian Government are  set on helping businesses owned by Hindians and those ethnically closer to them. 

This is the reality of the Indian Government! This is the reality of India! Are non-Hindi farmers, workers and businesses forever doomed to be discriminated by the Hindian dominated Indian Government?

ARTICLE BY THE SAME AUTHOR:

Thou Shalt Know Hindi! (Hindia or India?) (by Lalitha Krishnan Nair), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 1997 (8 KB)

----    2001-a1d

Your comments on this article or any other matter relating to Tamil are welcome

(e-mail to: tamiltribuneatasia.com Please replace "at" with the @ sign.)

Copyright 2001 by TAMIL TRIBUNE. All rights reserved.


This is a "Category B" article.  Free to publish as long as the entire article, author and Tamil Tribune name are included (no permission needed). Click here for more details.

TT