The Congress-led Opposition on Monday walked out of the Kerala Assembly, blaming the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government of not doing enough to revive the cashew industry.
The Opposition said 800 of 850 cashew factories were closed but Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan maintained that the government was working hard towards reviving the cashew industry.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the government should sanction a one-time assistance of Rs 10,000 to the cashew workers, who have no work since January. He also demanded free ration for them.
"Most Kerala cashew factories are in dire straits... almost 800 factories in the private sector needs support from the government. You have now been in power for close to two years... why are you not taking over these factories. You should also impress upon the Centre for a special package," Chennithala said.
Replying to an adjournment motion moved by former state minister and senior Congress leader Adoor Prakash, Pinarayi said the factories were closed due to the non-availability of raw nuts.
"We are working out arrangements with a group of African countries to ensure that we have uninterrupted availability of raw nuts from there," the Kerala CM added.
Pinarayi also observed that the newly formed Kerala Cashew Board was also working on programmes to increase the area under cashew cultivation and said the forest department would earmark 5,000 acres soon.
However, Pinarayi had no answer to the points raised by Prakash who said that, at present, all 40 factories in the government sector were closed while around 800 private factories were also closed due to non-availability of raw nuts. "Two lakh workers, of which 90 per cent are women, are in dire straits," Prakash said.
(With agency inputs)