Farmers seek to participate in Tobacco control summit

New Delhi: The Federation of All India Farmers Associations (FAIFA) on Monday urged the government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to have a representation of tobacco farmers in the upcoming Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) conference. "We have written to the government that FAIFA as representatives of Tobacco farmers be included in the official Indian delegation to COP7," Murali Babu, FAIFA General Secretary, said. "Allowing tobacco farmers to take part in the deliberations will underline the principle of transparency required in any public policy-making process and underscore the inclusiveness and fairness of the global health body," he said. According to the federation, the participation will help them understand the future course of actions being proposed by the WHO on tobacco control and the impact of those measures on tobacco crop cultivated by half a million farmers as their sole income source. Commenting on the absence of Indian tobacco farmers from the WHO conference, FAIFA President B.V. Javare Gowda said: "As representatives of the tobacco farmers in India and in view of the fact that the COP7 is being hosted by India, we wish to make an urgent appeal that farmers should be allowed to participate in the deliberations of the conference." The FCTC Conference of Parties (COP7) meeting is being held this year from November 7 to 12 in India. According to FAIFA, subsidies are being provided to tobacco farmers in countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe and Tanzania while it was a source of livelihood for 4.6 crore Indians. According to Tobacco Institute of India, tobacco is an extremely important commercial crop for the country as it contributes more than Rs 30,000 crore in tax revenue annually besides earning about Rs 6,000 crore in foreign exchange. "It is a matter of great concern for us that FCTC decisions in the past are made behind closed doors, with the media, the public and tobacco farmers excluded from the process. "The interests of tobacco growers are not represented in the debates especially when the decisions arrived at during the conference have direct bearing on the lives of tobacco growers," Babu said. IANS