AN okra field in Swabi. —Dawn
AN okra field in Swabi. —Dawn

SWABI: A number of farmers belonging to different areas of the district have given up tobacco cultivation and turned to growing vegetables, especially okra.

They said that vegetables could be easily sold as compared to tobacco.

They said that tobacco cultivation was hectic job and all members of their families took part in it while vegetables could be managed easily by the cultivators. “Only time factor is vital,” said Asif Ali, a local farmer.

The growers alleged that neither government nor Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) had played due role to take meaningful steps for protecting the interests of tobacco growers.

They said that expenditures of tobacco cultivation increased manifold during the last few years. “Our financial position has gradually declined. How the position of a farmer can improve if he grows tobacco and then sells the same on request,” they questioned.

Farmers allege tobacco firms and businessmen exploit them

The farmers said that their forefathers grew only tobacco despite exploitation by companies as they had no alternative source of earning livelihood because tobacco was the only cash crop at that time. “Now vegetables and fruits can replace tobacco,” they added.

Baswar Ali, a farmer of Maneri Bala village, said that there was no mechanism in place to protect the rights of tobacco growers. “Only hollow pledges are made and slogans are raised,” he said.

He said that he convinced his father to grow okra, watermelon, melon, cucumber and tomato instead of working hard for the entire year to cultivate tobacco and then make efforts for selling it.

“Believe me it was great mercy of Almighty Allah on me that I stopped tobacco cultivation. Now, we have grown okra. I take daily them to vegetable market and sell the same without any problem,” said his father Nural Zaman.

Mohammad Uzair Ali, another farmer, said that they grew melon and its sale started in the middle of Ramazan that continued till June 30.

“We are very happy to leave tobacco cultivation. We were not only financially weak but our health was also affected by it. Growing and curing tobacco need hard work,” said Mr Ali.

Khalid Khan, district president of Kisan Board, said that government imposed heavy taxes on tobacco and multinational and national companies transferred the entire burden to the growers.

ACCIDENT: A man was killed when his motorcycle was hit by a car near Safdar Chowk on Wednesday.

The deceased was identified as Ajab Khan. The driver of the car managed to escape.

Meanwhile, a woman was arrested at Shaheed Baba checkpost when police recovered two kilograms of hashish and one kilogram of opium from her. Police said that the alleged woman smuggler was on way to Rawalpindi.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2019