Monday, January 02, 2017

Compensate for demonetization loss or face farmers' ire during polls: Khedut Samaj warns Gujarat govt

Sagar Rabari (second from left) leading march to Gandhinagar
By Our Representative
Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), the state’s non-political farmers’ organization, has demanded that the Gujarat government make a thorough assessment of the crop loss suffered by farmers due to demonetization, especially in horticultural and vegetable sectors, and compensate for them through a special package.
The demand has been made in a memorandum to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani following a 450-kilometre-long footmarch, which started at the historical Somnath temple on December 14, ending off Gandhinagar, the state capital, on Monday.
Led by Sagar Rabari, KSG leader, around 1,800 farmers’ representatives participated on the last leg of the footmarch. Most of them belonged to the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, from Gir, Junagadh, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Surendranagar districts. Farmers from Ahmedabad, North Gujarat and North Gujarat districts too joined in.
During the footmarch, farmers at several villages are said to have pointed towards how demonetization has compounded their difficulties at the height of the sowing season, leading to “extreme frustration and anger”.
Other issues in the memorandum, which is based on meetings with thousands villagers during the footmarch, included dropping various legislative actions of the Gujarat government that undermined the farmers’ land rights. The latest in the series is amendment to the Land Acquisition Act (LAA), 2013, which abandons LAA’s social impact assessment and consent clauses.
During the footmarch – which passed through Dholera SIR – Magsaysay award-winning Gandhian social worker Sandeep Pandey, Rakesh Maheria and Bhupat Solanki of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Andolan, Vimlaben Kharadi of the Adivasi Yuva Vikas Sangathan, consultant Persis Ginwalla, social activist Jimmy Dabhi, economist Rohit Shukla, and well-known Gandhian campaigner Indukumar Jani participated.
The memorandum asks the state government to also abrogate the Special Investment Region (SIR), Act, 2009, which is being used by the state government to set aside 50 per cent of the farmers’ land in the name of urban infrastructure, and the Drainage an Irrigation Act, which seeks to divert water, meant for farmers, to industry.
Asking the state government to stop land acquisition in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, the memorandum echoes farmers’ concern to stop decommanding areas which come under the Narmada irrigation area and diverting them to industry, even as stop increasing irrigation rates for farmers.
Seeking compensation to the tune of Rs 50,000 per acre because of crop loss, instead of just Rs 15,000-20,000, the memorandum reminds the chief minister that the farmers would get electricity for groundwater irrigation for 18 hours till 2003, which has now gone down to eight hours.
“We must get 24 hour irrigation”, the memorandum insists.
Marching in a file of two, the foormarchers were stopped by the police near village Tarapur on way to Gandhinagar, where they were told that the chief minister would not be available, and that an officer would receive the memorandum. They were assured a meeting with Rupani later this week.
After handing over the memorandum to a Rupani aide, Rabari told newspersons, “Ironically, the Vibrant Gujarat global business meet, to be held in Gandhinagar on January 10-12, is more important for the state government than farmers.”
He accused the government of listening to tycoons, who would discuss allocation of land and water, at the business meet but not farmers.
He warned, if the farmers’ were not met, they would employ the ultimate weapon in a democracy – franchise. “We will ask people to vote for anyone except the present regime which has worked to destroy farmers and agriculture”, Rabari said.

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