Bangalore: Karnataka government on Tuesday said the ban imposed on gutka would stay, rejecting the demand of the opposition BJP which argued that the move would hit arecanut growers in the State.
At the end of a debate on the issue in the state Assembly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said revoking the May 30 government notification would only benefit the gutka lobby and would not help the cause of curbing cancer cases.
The ban is as per the Supreme Court order, he said, denying that it was a hasty decision. The government had no other option but to impose the ban. As many as 23 States and five Union Territories have taken similar step.
Seeking to allay concerns of the growers, he said the decline of price of arecanut was only marginal. Government would extend them support if the prices crash, he assured.
BJP floor leader and former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar said government has not come out with any specific roadmap to find solutions to growers` woes and announced that BJP members would stage a walk-out in protest, at which time Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa adjourned the House for the day.
Earlier, BJP members, who spoke in the House, demanded immediate withdrawal of the Government notification, asserting that it would hit arecanut growers.
Shettar charged the Government with having taken a hasty decision without pondering over its implication on arecanut farmers, and sought its withdrawal till the problems of the growers are addressed.
Shettar, who raised the issue along with some BJP members, said Government should have held discussions with legislators from arecanut growing areas, before issuing the notification.
Visweshwara Hegde Kageri (BJP) noted that Karnataka accounts for 60 per cent of the country`s arecanut production and maintained that there is nothing to suggest that arecanut is harmful to health.
Kageri, a former Minister who hails from Uttara Kannada district, a key producer of arecanut, alleged that a "powerful lobby" is behind the government`s decision which he termed as "unilateral" and "dictatorial". What`s needed is removal of harmful substances such as tobacco and nicotine from gutka.
Former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa (Karnataka Janatha Paksha) demanded that Government announce a support price for arecanut and reimburse the balance amount in case the price falls below that. "We are not against the ban on gutka.The government should first make an alternative mechanism for growers. Then they can decide on banning gutka", he said.