‘Fair deal for rubber farmers, green-pilgrim tourism to be top priority’
A close confidant of, the late K M Mani, Thomas Chazhikadan entered electoral politics following the death of his brother Babu Chazhikadan who died during electioneering in the Ettumanoor assembly constituency, where he was the UDF candidate. He had been the MLA from Ettumanoor till 2011.
A chartered accountant by training and former banker, Thomas Chazhikadan has already prepared a list of things to be taken up as an MP. Before leaving for New Delhi to take oath as Member of Parliament, Chazhikadan shared his plans for the constituency with Express’ Principal Correspondent Abhilash Chandran.
Q: Kottayam is basically a land of farmers. What will be your first priority as MP?
Kottayam is the land of rubber and the sector has been in deep trouble for quite a long time. The state and central governments, which are bound to protect the farmers, are dealing with the issue carelessly. The Rubber Production Incentive Scheme (RPIS), a revolutionary initiative of former state Finance Minister K M Mani to ensure `50 per kg for farmers, is almost defunct now.
At the same time, the Centre has not heeded to the demand to restrict rubber imports to arrest the plummeting rubber prices. The government should increase the import duty. This apart, the Centre should also release a sufficient amount to distribute planting and other subsidies to the farmers. I would definitely raise these issues in Parliament.
Q: But rubber prices have been rising steadily.
I don’t think farmers are getting a fair price for rubber. The minimum price should be increased to `200 taking into account the cost of production, for which the intervention of the state and central governments is essential. The Centre has already collected more than `1,000 crores as cess, which should be passed on to the farmers and then the RPIS price can be easily increased to `200 per kg. Kottayam is the only place in the state where the railway development work has hit a roadblock.
Q: How will you address this?
My first priority is to complete the remaining track doubling works here by expediting land acquisition. Moreover, major development work has already been announced for Kottayam railway station. Work on ROBs in Thellakom, Manjoor and Mulanthuruthi must be expedited. Kottayam railway station’s development is also on my agenda.
Q: Do you think the tourism potential of the district has been left untapped?
Yes. Kottayam has several tourism potential areas. We also have good scope for pilgrim tourism as Kottayam is the major centre en route to Sabarimala. I have plans for a ‘green tourism-pilgrim tourism circuit’ here. I would like to submit a detailed project in this regard to the Centre in consultation with experts.