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Tribal farmers' body in Gujarat put under surveillance, told it can't meet because of swine flu

Cops stop AKSM leader Sutariya to hold rally in Vyara
By Our Representative
Fresh apprehensions of a campdown on South Gujarat's fast-growing tribal farmers' organization, Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM), arose on Tuesday, with the Gujarat government putting on surveillance its leaders, who were in Ahmedabad to represent before Gujarat government officials over refusal to pay dues to tribal farmers by the powerful sugar mill lobby of the region.
The state government sent a police party at a spot off posh CG Road in Ahmedabad, where AKSM leader Romel Sutariya was holding discussions with his colleagues on what to represent before state officials. The cops told him "not to create any trouble" by going en masse to the state capital Gandhinagar.
"Why are you here? You know Section 144 (prohibition orders) in force in Ahmedabad because of the swine flu. You may go back", a police official told Sutariya, adding, "We wish to know if you going to hold a meeting." The cops' said this a week after Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel met large number of children brought to Gujarat Sachivalaya in a big group.
The police party reached up to Sutariya amidst a major relief to the tribal farmers, with the powerful sugar cooperative, Shri Ukai Pradesh Khand Udyog Mandli Ltd, representing 40 mills, admitting that it has failed to make huge payments to the tribal farmers of South Gujarat for sugarcane.
The cooperative's management has handed over a list of 1,300 tribal farmers, with names of those who have not been made the payments to the district collector, Tapi.
Sutariya reached Ahmedabad on Tuesday morning with his colleagues from Vyara, a South Gujarat town, where he was refused permission to hold a rally of on tribal farmers under the pretext of wine flu. "We received information from South Gujarat that there are plans for trouble, hence we decided to keep a watch", a cop told Sutariya who wished to inquire about why this apprehension.
A perusal of the list, in possession of the tribal farmers' body, Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM), by Counterview suggests that the cooperative has admitted it has not paid Rs 9.77 crore as dues for sugarcane supplied to the mills in 2013-14 alone. It has simultaneously handed over a list of farmers who have not been paid their dues for earlier years, which, taken together, reaches Rs 17 crore.
AKSM leader Romel Sutariya, in Ahmedabad on way to meet Gujarat government officials in Gandhinagar to represent tribal farmers' case, said, "We think this is a gross underestimation. We feel that the amount is much higher, and does not just involve 1,300 farmers. But we are happy that the officialdom has acted and got in its possession the list of 1,300 farmers."
Sutariya told Counterview, the cooperative, which had given in writing to the government officials that it would be paying all the dues by February-end, has not initiated the process. "We think that the cooperative is unable to make the payment. Directly under the ruling BJP politicians, it is under debt to the tune of Rs 80 crore. It has no money. Its premises are closed. Its power has been snapped", he said.
"This is the reason why we have decided to ask the Gujarat government to invest Rs 200 crore to revive the cooperative, so that its debts are cleared, and the farmers are paid their dues. Instead, the Gujarat government is considering to hand over the cooperative to some other organization. We believe that the tribal farmers are its real owners, they alone should decide its fate", Sutariya said.
"We want that the Gujarat government should organize elections to the cooperative, which has in all 24,000 tribal farmer shareholders", Sutariya said, adding, "The elections should have been held last year, but the cooperative leadership has refused to oblige. We want to the government about the need for triggering in the democratic process."

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