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Commerce ministry sacks Tobacco Board Chairman Kothati Gopal

HYDERABAD: The commerce ministry has sacked the chairman of Tobacco Board, Kothati Gopal, after reviewing the instances of suicides by some tobacco farmers in Andhra Pradesh, one of the largest tobacco producers.

India is the third-largest global producer and second largest exporter of tobacco.

The ministry has on Tuesday asked the 1992 batch Tamil Nadu cadre bureaucrat to proceed on leave with immediate effect until further orders have been given.

In a tweet on Wednesday evening, the Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, said she reviewed “the situation arising due to death of tobacco farmers.”

A statement issued by the ministry said the minister took a detailed review of the situation “consequent upon reported instance of some tobacco farmers having committed suicide on ac count debt burden”.

“The commerce and industry minister took cognizance of the absence of chairman, Tobacco Board, and his visit to Italy in the midst of this crisis, which shows lack of sensitivity to the farmers’ issues,” said the ministry in a statement.

Apart from asking Gopal to proceed on leave, the ministry has directed a senior officer to take additional charge as the chairman of Tobacco Board. The minister, through review, found that only 142.6 million kg of tobacco was lifted by the trade in Andhra Pradesh till Monday out of the 172 million kg and directed the Board to take immediate steps to facilitate disposal of the balance quantity of 30 million kg by month-end.

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