In a move which is not surprised farmers' leaders, prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Surat for road show, the police detained President of Khedut Samaj South Gujarat chief Jayesh Patel (Delat). The detention took place despite the fact that the Khedut Samaj did not plan any protest programmes, nor did it seek any
permission for protest.
The detention came amidst the news that farmers' representatives wanted to raise with Modi the case of income-tax recovery notices slapped on South Gujarat sugar cooperatives. The income tax (IT) department has sent recovery notices to some of the largest sugar cooperative clusters of South Gujarat. The notices suggest that 14 cooperatives evaded Rs 1,399 crore in taxes between 2011-12 and 2013-14.
Notices were served amidst farmers' leaders saying that the IT department "overlooked" the fact that agricultural incomes are exempt from tax under the IT Act. The farmers in South Gujarat are mainly depend on sugarcane farming.
While the police have given no reason for the detention, this is not for the first time that the cops swooped upon activists, detaining them ahead of any VVIP visit, including Modi's.
The Khedut Samaj said in a statement, “The government, is so afraid of social activists that it earlier detained Khedut Samaj leaders Sagar Rabari and Lakhan Musafir, Patidar pro-quota leader Hardik Patel, Dalit rights leader Jignesh Mevani, among others, ahead of Modi’s programmes.”
Khedut Samaj stated, “This shows as to how intense the fear is of the people within the government. One need not say on whose orders are the ‘obedient’ police force acting.”
Rabari, commenting on the detention, said, “The farmers of Gujarat severely condemn this undemocratic and despotic step of the Gujarat government. This direct attack on democracy in Gujarat will be answered to by the people of Gujarat in the forthcoming elections.”
He added, “The government is resorting to the short-cut of suppressing the voice of the farmers instead of listening to them. We will undertake massive programmes of people’s education against the anti-democratic and autocratic steps by the ruling establishment.”
Meanwhile, in a separate statement, Romel Sutariya of the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM), which represents the new class of tribal farmers of South Gujarat, said that Modi would be inaugurating the Surat District Co-Operative Milk Producer's Union or SUMUL’s Tapi plant in South Gujarat despite the fact that it has been constructed illegally on agricultural land.
Quoting sources, Sutariya said, the plant, situated off national highway near Valod taluka’s Bajipur village on a plot of land belonging to Titava village, which is an agricultural land, and has not been cleared for non-agricultural purpose.
“The plant was built despite the fact that the local panchayat opposed handing over the plot of land for non-agricultural purpose”, claimed Sutariya, adding, “Tapi district officials are learnt to have even decided to propose a fine of Rs 4 lakh for illegal construction.”
Sutariya demanded, during his visit, Modi should send out the signal to the state government so that it begins acting against chit fund scamsters, who are looting poor tribals. “If Modi speaks against chit fund scam in West Bengal, what stops him to speak about it in Gujarat”, it asked.