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Govt "indifferent" towards suffering farmers: Modi refused to meet Gujarat ministers on cotton price issue

Saurashtra farmers' leaders discussion plan of action
By Our Representative
Three non-political farmers’ organizations, Saurashtra Khedut Ladat Samiti, Khedut Samaj Gujarat, and Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, have come together to ask the Gujarat government to add “bonus package” to the minimum support price (MSP) being offered to farmers by the Government of India for different farmers’ products, especially cotton, in order to protect them from being ruined. They have declared, if this is not done, they would be forced to "disrupt" the Vibrant Gujarat Business Summit, to take place on January 11-12 in Gandhinagar to attract foreign investment.
Forming Sanyukt Khedut Sangharsh Samiti to press their demand, their leaders told mediapersons in Ahmedabad that such “bonus is offered by several other Indian states, but as for Gujarat, it has “remained indifferent towards it.”
One of them, Sagar Rabari, told reporters, “In Saurashtra, the farmers are being offered just about Rs 650 to Rs 750 per 20 kg as against the MSP of Rs 850. The marketing yards have put up bills declaring they will not buy up cotton. Farmers producing cotton are on the brink. Majority of them had taken loan from informal financiers at a very high rate, anywhere between 1.5 per cent to 5 per cent per month, to cotton, hoping that, like last year, they would earn a good amount, but this has happened.”
“Most farmers are unable to pay back their debt, pushing them into distress. On the other hand, the Gujarat government is failing to take any concrete step”, said Rabari. Newspersons were told that at least two senior ministers of the Gujarat government, Nitin Patel and Bhupendrasinh Chudasma, had gone to represent before Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “solve” the problem.
“They waited for two hours. Modi didn’t meet them. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) finally asked them to go and see the Union agriculture minister. The minister met them, but for just 45 seconds. They handed over their representation to the minister and returned empty handed”, the leaders said, quoting a senior BJP MLA.
“All this is happening at a time when farmers, especially cotton growers, are being pushed to the brink. Four of them have so far committed suicide, two over the last fortnight – in village Dharai near Chotila and village Fatehpur near Patdi. An impression is gaining ground that the Gujarat government is least interested in farmers’ plight. There is an industrial policy, an electronics policy, an agro-industries policy, but no agricultural policy”, Rabari said.
In a statement, the Samiti said, “The Government of Gujarat is going to spend crores of rupees on the Vibrant Gujarat summits at a time when cotton and groundnut farmers of Gujarat are forced to commit suicide on account of high input costs and low market yield for their produce. There is a race to welcome the big corporate with red carpet, but the stat government has neither money nor words of comfort to offer to farmers’ distraught families.”
The statement further said, “In the changed politico-economic environment, the political class considers backing the large corporates as profitable; the agricultural sector which employs even today nearly 70% of the work force and which provides the food security for the nation is not a priority. While other states are giving bonus over and above the MSP declared by the Central government, the Gujarat government is merely indulging in cheating farmers.”
The Samiti released a four-point programme before the media, including increasing of MSP to Rs 1200 per 20 kg for cotton and Rs 1000 per 20 kg for groundnut, plus a bonus of Rs 200 per kg; making it legally mandatory that all public auctions for farm products are above MSP; increase in electricity quota for farmers and regular power supply of 12 hours daily; make arrangements to expedite the crop insurance claims by October 31 every year; and a written assurance of not to decommand the Narmada command area.

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