Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"Ruined" Gujarat greenhouse farmers seek loan waiver, threaten suicide, say Modi promise destroyed them

By Our Representative
Stressed for the last several years, hundreds of enterprising Gujarat farmers who took up greenhouse projects are on warpath. Accused the state government for failing to listen to their plight, they have said, they are all “deeply in debt” and would not compromise “anything less than loan waiver”.
Operating under the umbrella of Greenhouse Farmers’ Association (GFA), which has a membership of 750 out of about 2,283, who took up greenhouse projects, farmers’ representatives told a media conference, if the state government does not come to their rescue, they are left with “no other option but to commit suicide.”
Directly taking on Modi, who in 2010 gave greenhouse projects a fresh “impetus” with 50% state government subsidy on greenhouse structure, over and above 25% offered by the Centre on greenhouse development, a GFA statement said, “Many youths were attracted by Modi’s loud talk of providing new opportunity to youths in Gujarat. But it has come to a naught today – the young farmers attracted who took up greenhouse projects are all ruined.”
The statement added, “It is unfortunate that even seven years after the state government began supporting the greenhouse project, it was unable to call it agriculture. The result is, we have failed to get any advantages like crop insurance benefit or term loan.”
Seeking a loan waiver of about Rs 100 crore, five young GFA representatives – Darshan Nagarsheth, Tejas Patel, Jatin Patel, Vijay Patel and Sanket Zaveri – squarely blamed the state government for “completely misguiding” them and “pushing” into the “greenhouse ditch”, from where they have failed to come out.
Nagarsheth, who left a lucrative management job in Mumbai to begin his greenhouse startup in 2012, told mediapersons, they were shown “rosy pictures” of house greenhouse farming would flourish, increasing their farm output by 10 times, “without making any pilot projects.”
Not more than 100 greenhouse farms survive out of a total of 2,283 set up across India
“Lured by huge subsidy offered to us, within one year we realized that the state government took a replica from Israel, and copied things from internet to dupe us. While the first crop was a success, next year onwards, we found, diseases struck our farmhouses, with no way to counter them”, he said.
“It was clear: Gujarat’s environment does not suit greenhouses. We are all in deep debt – on an average about Rs 45 lakh each. High bank interests at compound rate of 14% destroyed us further. Thankfully, last year, the Gujarat High Court gave a stay on banks confiscating our greenhouse farm lands – one acre each”, he added.
Pointing out that as of today “not more than 100 greenhouse farms survive” out of a total of 2,283 set up across India”, Nagarsheth said, “We found to our surprise that we could take up only three crops, capsicum, cucumber and rose. There was no support price to our produce. We were forced to sell cucumber at Rs 2 per kg, destroying all our income.”
GFA’s Jatin Patel added, “We have represented our case to everyone, including former chief minister Anandiben Patel, agriculture minister Chiman Sapariya, senior government officials of the agriculture department, others, but received no firm assurance.”
Earlier, RSS’ farmers’ wing, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), had admitted that almost 90% crops in greenhouses have failed in North Gujarat, as extreme summer heat damage crops grown under in them, with farmers reeling under deep debt. In 2015, BKS demanded full waiver of loans and interests taken for greenhouse farming.

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