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Alleging Rs 90 crore "corruption", South Gujarat tribal farmer body threatens stir on March 20

By Our Representative
The Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM), an upcoming tribal farmers' organization, has decided to launch a new agitation -- this time against the powerful sugar lobby of South Gujarat. In a statement, AKSM has said, it will be holding a rally in Vyara town, which is the district capital of Tapi, on March 20 highlighting the "failure" of the local sugar cooperatives association to pay up Rs 90 crore to the tribal farmers against the purchase of sugarcane since 2006.
AKSM's Romel Sutariya, in a statement announcing the rally, said, it is being held in order to demand "government control" of the Shri Ukai Pradesh Sahakari Khand Udyog Mandli Ltd, the cooperative body operated by "local vested interests of South Gujarat".
Other demands include appointment of a liquidator to abolish the cooperative, arrest of the top officials which controls the sugar cooperative body, attachment of their property, and payment of compensation with interest to the tribal farmers. "If the demands are not met, we will begin indefinite fast in district collector's office", he added.
"By refusing to put pressure o pay up the dues, the Gujarat government is supporting the cooperative, and is encouraging the tribal farmers to commit suicide", Sutariya alleged, adding, "Refusal of payment is particularly widespread in Tapi district, which is largely tribal. The mills are amassing huge profits by failing to pay up to the tribal farmers against sugarcane grown by them".
Suggesting that the problem of non-payment has been continuing for the last several years, Sutariya further alleged, "Last year alone, 1,500 tribal farmers were refused payments worth Rs 17 crore. We even represented to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel about this. Yet, nothing has happened, and the problem of non-payment continues unabated."
Later, the AKSM represented to Gujarat governor Om Prakash Kohli, who heard the representative for two hours. "He promised that he would take up the matter with government departments concerned with the matter", Sutariya said, adding, "Yet there was no change in the situation. Instead of solving the problem, the government has been mulling to sell away the cooperative to private interests."
Earlier, the AKSM had alleged that the refusal by the police to register a complaint against the association was in “violation of a Supreme Court order.” In an order in November 2013, the Supreme Court had said that it was “mandatory” for the police to register first information report (FIR) if a complainant approaches it for the registration of a cognizable offence.
“We believe that even if the police agree to file an FIR, that would put pressure on the sugarcane cooperative body to start paying the tribal farmers’ dues. The failure to register an FIR would mean the powerful body would get enough time to destroy all evidence of non-payment of dues to the advantage of the sugar industry”, the statement had pointed out.

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