Karnataka Planters' Association

Karnataka Planters' Association

A KPA FOUNDER’S TALE

By : Mandepanda B Appaya was a founder and a former chairman of the KPA

mb_appaiyaI am perhaps one of the lucky planters to have participated at the inauguration of the KPA and still living. The function held at the Sports Club, Mysore was inaugurated by the late Maharaja.
Late Mr. CL Machia who was my boss, as managing director of Coffee Lands Ltd, had invited me to the function. He read a long report emphasizing the need for the association [KPA].

The late Mr. M. Appaya was seated beside the Maharaja. As I was the then manager of the Hunsur Coffee Curing Works owned by Coffee Lands, Mr. Machia had asked me to attend the function. Here I was introduced to Mr. Lakshmana Gowda and a few other planters. My association with the KPA began when I had to leave the Hunsur Coffee Works after its sale to its present owners. I then started taking an interest in the KPA and was elected from Kodagu as member very soon, I became the vice chairman when the Late Mr. AC Shivegowda was the chairman. We had a lot of problems at the KPA Level. The Land Ceiling Act was published. Although alI agricultural lands, including coffee, tea and rubber were exempt, if anyone had any other Land, both together could not exceed 48 acres. In other words, our paddy, arecanut plantations got a severe blow.  Both, Late Shivegowda and I had to toil and we stayed in Bangalore for 27 days at a stretch to solve the issue.

We met almost all members of the Assembly pleading for exemption for one ceiling area of crops excluding coffee. We had an uphill task. Fortunately, D Devaraj Urs, the then chief minister of Karnataka, who was a good friend from my days at Hunsur, helped us a lot by convincing the Congress party our case. Thus, we were allowed one ceiling area of other crops much against the will of the then revenue minister.

Mr. UK Lakshmana Gowda, being an MP was helpful from the beginning. He helped us not only for getting the ceiling area, but also with wealth tax.

It cannot be emphasized less that he had a big hand in helping us. He was friendly with all MPs, which helped us in securing wealth tax exemptions on plantations. Mr. FM Khan, MP, has also helped us get wealth tax exemption.

I was the chairman of the KPA in 1973. My association with the Coffee Board began in 1971.  I was a member of the Coffee Board for four terms, though not at one stretch. During 1971 there was a shortage of curing works as the business was not attractive. A committee was formed to visit all the curing works and know of their expansion plans. Mr. PG Gurger and myself visited all the curing works in the state and submitted a report  to the chairman. We were both traveling from Hassan to Mangalore. Enroute we heard of the surrender of Pakistan after the Bangladesh war. GeneraI Manekshaw was then made Field Marshal for the success.

Mr. UK Lakshmana Gowda who I used to call Bhishma Pitama, was of great help in the Coffee Board. When we used to have heated arguments on certain issues with the intelligent Kerala members, it was Mr. UK Lakshmana Gowda who used his knowledge and experience to solve the issues. Late Narasimha Rao, IAS, once sent me to Delhi to negotiate with Russian representatives regarding discount on coffee sold to them.

During 1988-89′ both Mr. Lakshmana Gowda and l went to Moscow for that year’s sale to the erstwhile USSR. We had to go during December and stayed for eight days. Finally we agreed to allow 38 percent discount on international prices. The then chairman of the board, Late SK Warrier had come with us.

Normally, we sold 50,000 tones to the USSR. But every year the discount went up. At New Delhi we decided to allow 37 percent discount on the International prices. We had no choice as we had to sell one-third to the quota countries and one-third for internal consumption and one-third for non-quota countries. For sales in the internal market, the government fixed the minimum price. Thus planters suffered. To add to their woes we had to pay 102 percent purchase tax since we had lost the case in the Supreme Court. lt was kept pending for 10 years before the retiring chief justice gave the decision on the last day of his sitting. Karnataka government, in addition to this, levied a 15 percent sales tax on every bean sold by the growers.

We met even Rajiv Gandhi in Bangalore and made representations to him. He asked us to meet the adviser to the governor as there was no government then. Mr.Rangarajan heard us patiently for 45 minutes but gave no decision. Finally there was an agitation for the abolition of pooled marketing by the growers and they succeeded and now free trade of coffee is allowed.
I became chairman of UPASI in 1983. Mr. Tika Bedi insisted l should take this position since l did not accept it due to certain physical constraints. Anyway, I served the UPASI in the committees from 1972 to 1983.

So my career in the KPA, Coffee Board ended in 1983. I served the Mysore Race Club for over 15 years which celebrated the centenary in 1992 with an eye hospital for the poor and the needy as a centenary project. I was the chairman of the Race Club from 1988-92.

I am now over 87 years old, yet take keen interest in many of the activities I used to participate in.

A SHORT PERSPECTIVE

By : M. M. Appaya

Mandepanda B AppayaThe Plantation Industry in Karnataka has had a chequered career. Its ups and downs and struggle
for survival are a saga of human perseverance in the face of tremendous odds. Behind the facade of seeming prosperity there lies a story of dedication, privation and endeavour for excellence, all of which contributing, one way or other, to the achievements they are the envy of other agricultural enterprises in the country.

The success of the plantation Industry, in a measure, is due to the role played by Plantation Associations. These Associations act as watch dogs to the fortunes of the industry and have helped in the adaptation of modern technological innovations to the betterment of production and productivity.

The planting associations owe their origin to the expatriate planters who dominated the growing
of plantation crops. Much of the area under plantation was held by these expatriates and they in
their wisdom organised associations to act collectively on their behalf in times of distress. Two such associations are the Coorg Planters’ Association and the Mysore Planters’ Association. Initially the role of these associations was confined to making representations to governments about the constraints that were impeding the normal working of the industry. Pests and disease and later the severe depression took a big toll of much of the area planted with plantation crops, particularly coffee. It was sad to see plantation abandoned and reverting to jungle. A sense of gloom pervaded the industry. Desperate measures were called for meeting this desperate situation. The thirties of the present century particularly was a difficult period. Coffee prices slumped to a level of Rs. 20/- per cwt of Robusta with marginal higher prices for Arabica. Properties were changing hands at a ridiculously low price of Rs. 200/- per acre.

It was in this hour of gloom that the Coorg Planters’ Association and the Mysore Planters’ Association under the leadership of the United Planters’ Association of Southern India moved the Central Government for help. The Government was swift with its response and provided liberal loans for the rehabilitation of the industry. With the object of improving the market for coffee a Cess Committee, the forerunner of the present Coffee Board, was set up. These steps gave some semblance of strength to the industry and enable it to withstand the difficult days of the depression and the Second World War. The Coffee Market Expansion Ordinance and the Coffee Act followed. Overseas Markets for Coffee became buoyant and the Coffee Industry breathed freely again. Large tracts of abandoned coffee came to be planted and the planting districts were again hives of activity.

Both the Mysore Planters’ Association and the Coorg Planters’ Association were started by expatriate planters as the bulk of the large holdings was in their hands. Even as late as the 30’s the membership of these associations consisted mainly of these expatriates. The depression of the 30’s and the second world war had a tremendous impact on the pattern of holdings and proprietary holdings which were essentially foreign, enterprises gradually passed on to Indian hands. The foundation and background to the Industry’s prudent status was, however, firmly laid by these expatriate planters and it is only fitting that we pay our tribute and record our appreciation of the foresight with which these associations were started.

The re-organisation of States and the consequent merger of Coorg with Mysore had its own fall-out, affecting the structure of associations. Again, under the leadership of The United Planters’ Association, the members of the UPASI in Greater Mysore (including Coorg) formed a new Association to look after all the plantations in the newly formed state and called it the Mysore State Planters’ Association. The head quarters of this Association was chosen to be Chikmagalur, The Mysore Planters’ Association with nearly a hundred years of service merged with the Mysore State Planters’Association and the activities of the Coorg Planters’Association was restricted to that of a District Association. In time with greater Mysore being renamed as Karnaraka. The Mysore State Planters’Association changes its name to Karnataka Planters’ Association.

The last three decades has seen the coffee industry making giant strides. The production of coffee in greater Mysore has gone from a mere 12,000 tonnes in 1950 to 1, 20,000 tonnes in 1980. Planted area of coffee in Mysore has gone up from 60,000 hectares to 1, 15,000 hectares for the same period. The tempo of production is such that the targets set for the turn of the century may be reached by 1990.The Plantation Industry is unique in the agricultural scene in the sense that Management practices have been adopted to great advantage as against general agriculture that due to limitation of holdings his been unable to absorb modern technology. The only way of keeping these agricultural farms ticking is by adequate price support. One year’s disaster can spell ruin to these farms. Their rehabilitation is a laborious operation.

It is a healthy sign that with improvement in commodity prices, the well – being of the work force is receiving more and more attention. The income of a plantation worker’s family is much above that of workers in the agricultural sector and the welfare benefits these workers enjoy, including retire benefits, has given these plantation workers a sense of security. The Comprehensive Labour WelfareScheme, the small grower development project and the Cattle Development project are all well designed to elevate the quality of life of these workers.

Wages on the small grower sector will be critical to their survival. It is their welfare that large growers and Associations will have to apply themselves to and project. Twenty five years in the life of an Association is a short period but even in such a short period the impact Karnataka Planters’ Association has made on Government and public is impressive and there is every justification to feel elated with its achievement. What then of the future? There seems very title reason for apprehension. The demand for coffee in our country and consumption level of 1,00,000 tones is achievable ‘in a short time with an imaginative propaganda effort. The sales of our coffee in the foreign markets is restricted by the quota fixed for India by the International Coffee Agreement. Our Coffee can be fully disposed off only if the surplus coffees, after meeting the quota and domestic markets, are discounted at rates other producers of this ware are
allowing in the non quota countries. A strategy for sales in the domestic and foreign markets should envisage a time bound programmed for the absorption of 1,00,000 tonnes each in the domestic and foreign markets.

The small-grower sector is a vital sector in the coffee Industry. The sudden spurt in prices in the
International Markets following the devastating frost in 1975 in-Brazil, led to frantic and feverish planting of coffee in all kinds of land by the small grower sector. The cost of cultivation in this sector is very high and any fall in prices will severely hit this sector. A need for the coffee industry in this sector to imbibe the fruits of research and careful husbanding of resources is important if the large number of small growers are to survive in the climate of over production and declining prices. It is in this sphere that Planting Associations’ have a vital role to play. The community should be made aware of the national objectives and the planting Associations should strive to bring the community’s activities in tune with the national objectives.

The Planting Community is a much misunderstood sector in the country. Its achievements are of no avail in the face of widespread prejudice. Confined to the Malnad districts of the state, its importance is little realized by the public at large. The assistance it receives from Governments, both Central and State, is minuscule. The reward on the other hand for the successes of the planting community has been enhanced taxations! The levy of agricultural Income-tax only to Plantation crops that occupy about 0.17o of land under cultivation in Karnataka is indicative of the iniquitous treatment this sector is receiving at the hands of Government. The State Exchequer benefits to the extent of Rs. 1,200/- per hectare from plantation crops by way of this tax in addition to land tax and other taxes levied on other crops.

The Karnataka Planters’ Association has received commendable recognition for its service to its
members. The thrust during the next decade should be. towards improving its base and developing closer liaison with Government. The Associations total understanding of the problems of plantation crops should be utilised by Government so that the development of plantations will be in consonance with the nation’s ethos.

THE BIRTH OF AN ASSOCIATION

By : U.K. Lakshman Gowda

Mandepanda B AppayaThere were four functioning associations at the time of the states re-organization in 1956. They were the Coorg planters’ association, the Coorg Indian planters’ association, the Mysore planters’ association and the Indian planters’ association, Chikmagalur. Leading members of all these association recognized the need for a common body which could represent the whole planting industry in the new Mysore state.

I had joined the Mysore planters’ association and the Upasi some years earlier and was on the executive committee of the later from 1953. I was already aware of the Upasi ideas its own reorganization and the creation of new state planters’ association with concurrent membership. One of ideas considered was the setting up of a general Upasi committee representative of all states. Another was that only state planters’ association nominees should be on the Upasi committee. The pros and cons of these ideas were in debate for quite some time before the states re-organisation brought about the need for quick decisions.

I was asked by the UPASI Committee to initiate discussions i n the formation of the UPASI with the Indian Planters’ Association. The late Mr. S. N. Ramanna of the IPA, Chikmagalur and Mr. Richard Radcliffe supported the idea of a fully representative MSPA for the new State. It was a detail of arrangement that the Chairmanship of the new body was to alternate between an IPA and an MPA nominee. To smoothen things out I was elected chairman of the MPA in March 1956 in anticipation of events. By October, soon after the formation of the new State of Mysore I was contacted by the Coorg Planters’ Association. I was forwarded a formal resolution of that Planters’ Association showing its support for a State wide planting body. Mr.Ramanna decided to submit a similar resolution through the IPA.

Guarantee for small holders

We moved quickly at the MPA. I convened a meeting on 21st November at which we decided to ask the UPASI to lend us an office and staff with sufficient association experience and standing for the secretariat organization. There was general agreement that the office concerned should be ‘able to solve small grower problems and speak Kannada. The IPA urged that small growers should have a guaranteed representation and local matters should continue to be handled by district Planters’ Associations.

The MPA appointed a sub-committee to consider all these matters with Mr. Radcliffe, Hajee Mohamed Ishaq and myself as members. Due to various delays and difficulties to form a clear direction, we decided to consider another UPASI idea. That was for forming a UPASI branch for Mysore. The branch was to be managed by a Mysore Committee with its own Chairman.

However, on 12th January 1957, Mr. Radcliffe, Mr. C. I.Machia, who was then President of UPASI,
Mr. M. M. Belliappa, Mr. S. N. Ramanna and myself met at the Krishnarai Sagar Hotel and decided
to draft the rules for a greater Mysore association. With UPASI assistance a draft was pre-pared but it did not solve the problem of finance. Then UPASI offered to serve as Secretaries for the new body. The DPAs did not readily accept this suggestion and wanted a state association. Some of the members suggested the Branch idea to be considered again and others favoured an association consisting of only UPASI members in the State and the door being left open for others to join in.

Bricks from this precarious new edifice came tumbling down when the Coorg Planters ‘Associationintimated that they no longer thought a joint body with the rest of new Mysore was necessary. This left us where we started. I then proposed that until opinions changed, the MPA should move its office to a Central place and establish a proper secretariat. For practical reasons it was decided to disincorporate the MPA from under the Companies Act and set up in its place an unregistered association. We had about Rs. 35,000 in the MPA which was duly transferred to the new body. T. M. S.Subramaniyan & Co., Chartered Accountants were asked to liquidate the old MPA.

UPASI again took the initiative and put forward the idea of a Mysore State Planters’ Association
consisting of its own members in the State and the office being located in the UPASI Secretariat. This was to avoid a new subscription being imposed on the members. At the same time a clearly identified body would be in place to act for planting interests in Mysore. The MPA authorized me to convene a meeting of all interested planting associations to consider the proposal. The meeting duly convened agreed to the formation of the MSPA consisting of UPASI members in the new State with hope that others would eventually join. The Chairman of the four district associations confirmed their support for this proposal on behalf of their respective associations.

The disincorporation of the MPA was completed and Mr.P. G. Gurjer took over from me as Chairman of the unregistered body. Meanwhile our work on the MSPA continued with UPASI offering the services of Mr. H. K. Chandrasekhar for Mysore affairs. At a meeting held in the Woodlands Hotel in Bangalore on the 3rd August, 1958 which I chaired, we did a fresh review and accepted the UPASI offer and further to revive the formal constitution of a greater Mysore association. Mr. C. I. Machia as UPASI President, took the initiative to form a first committee with Mr. P. G. Gurjer (Chairman,MPA), Mr. R. C. Patterson (Chairman, CPA), M/s.. R. Radcliffe, M. M. Appaiya, D. V. Dasappa, K. M. Varghese Mappillai, R. N. Karmarkar, N. K. Ganapaiah, Brig. C. P. Ponnappa,Haiee Mohamad Ishaq and myself as members.It seemed from the proceedings of the meeting that the initial enthusiasm with which the different Planters’ Associations in Mysore had supported the idea of a State body had somehow evaporated. However, the proposal that the consent of the UPASI members in the new State of Mysore alone be taken to form a State body was the most practical way to overcome the inertia. At the special meeting which had been convened for the same day, the Mysore members of UPASI unanimously agreed to the
setting up of the Mysore State Planters’ Association. I was elected the first Chairman, Mr.R. C. Patterson and Brig. C. P. Ponnappa proposing and seconding my nomination.

The Committee, duly elected by the general body, consisted of M/s. R. C. Patterson, P. G. Gurjer, R. Radcliffe, M. M. Appaya, D. V. Dasappa, K. M. Varghese Mappillai,R. N. Karmarkar, N. K. Ganapaiah, Hajee Mohamed Ishaq and Brig. Ponnappa. Mr. Patterson was elected as Vice-Chairman and Mr. H. K. Chandrasekharan was formally appointed as the first Secretary of the UPASI, a post he held with devotion and distinction until the Association had settled down to its active role, recognized in the State by all the producers and the general public.

There were various problems which came up at the first meeting. One was that of locating the
headquarters. Another was voiced by Mr. M. C. Cherian who opposed the rule of concurrent membership with the UPASI. Another was the entry limitation, one of the UPASI rules which at the time barred membership to those with less than 50 acres. Mr.Cherian withdrew his opposition to the concurrency rule, during the course of the meeting. The rule relating to estsize was subsequently modified by UPASI and now presented a problem. While the location of MSPA office unsettled, it was decided to use the Consolidated Estates offices in Pollibetta as a temporary measure.

The controversy over the concurrency rule was not though for the present it was patched up. Those who held line was acting as UPASI members and they could not amend a rule of the UPASI at that meeting. But it was to come up the Association meetings in subsequent years. There practical problems as CPA and MPA had a large member non-UPASI members who would resist any obligation to UPASI members. Since, the MSPA was being formed with only UPASI members at the moment, I found no reason the issue should hold up the proceedings, a view which veiled at the time.

A home for MSPA

At the first budget meeting of the MSPA held on 10th March, 1959 at Woodlands Hotel, Bangalore
we considered various suggestions. Mr. P. G. Gurjer offered his house in Chikmagalur for the
accommodation of the Secretary and there was another kind offer for temporarily locating the office while the Association considered various alternatives for a permanent home. The Annual Conference of a Planters’ Association is visible demonstration of support from the planting city at large. We decided to proceed with the first one. Mysore city at the Sports Club which provided both sporting and conference facilities. The attendance was good and the occasion was taken for exchange of ideas, sports, meetings and discussions on coffee matters. Mr. B. D. Jatti, the ChiefMinister of the State, at the time, inaugurated the conference and the new Association was well and truly launched on career.

All those who took the initiative to form the MSPA in beginning, may look upon the KPA as the principal planting body of the State today, have reason to feel a measure of satisfaction that their work was not in vain. Some of those stalwarts who were most active in the cause are still around. The others we sadly miss.