“Rather than ‘persuading’ farmers to desist from sowing particular seed varieties, Gujarat Government should side with farmers to save their rights as enshrined in the law”

6:01 pm in News by Kavitha

GUJARAT GOVERNMENT’S DEAL WITH PEPSICO INDIA UNACCEPTABLE: IT COMPROMISES FARMERS’ SEED FREEDOMS IN INDIA AND IGNORES THE LAW OF THE LAND

“Rather than ‘persuading’ farmers to desist from sowing particular seed varieties,  Gujarat Government should side with farmers to save their rights as enshrined in the law”

“PepsiCo India should be told that this is not USA – this is India where farmers’ right over seeds supersedes PepsiCo’s rights”

“We will intensify our stir against company”, say farmers rights groups

Ahmedabad / New Delhi, May 4th 2019: Farmers rights groups in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country have threatened to intensify their stir if a reported deal between Gujarat Government and PepsiCo India is finalised, which they assert goes against the interests of farmers in India. It is reported in an English daily that the government has decided to “persuade” farmers not to grow FL 2027 potato variety without permission from the company, and even if they did, to sell the produce only to PepsiCo India. This is not acceptable – why should government persuade the farmers when they have not committed any crime under our law? Such ‘deals’ show that either the government does not know the law, or wants to work against the law, said farmers’ leaders. “No permission is required to be taken by farmers for growing any variety that they please, including registered varieties” explained a statement. “Rather than educating PepsiCo about law of the land, government is wrongly proposing a deal that appears anti-farmer, just to save face of PepsiCo. By this, a wrong precedent is being set for all farmers of the country”, said activists.

Gujarat Government, after making itself a mediator in this controversy, has neither consulted the farmers sued by PepsiCo, nor involved any farmers organisations’ representatives in the discussions it is holding with PepsiCo India. The company had made no formal moves in the Commercial Court of Ahmedabad to withdraw its cases, as announced by it on Thursday.

“How does such a deal make sense, and which side is the Gujarat government in all of this?” asked Vittalbhai Dudhatra, President of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. “When the law allows farmers to grow any variety of crop that they want, why should the Gujarat government persuade the farmers otherwise? Today it is PepsiCo and tomorrow, it will be another company. Is the government now trying to please company at the cost of rights of the farmers? If such deals are struck, government will face resistance from farmers”, he said.

The deal has been struck reportedly between Gujarat government and PepsiCo, after PepsiCo India’s Vice President and other officials met with the Chief Secretary of Government of Gujarat in Gandhinagar yesterday. There is no information shared by the government about the discussions.

“On 24th of April, more than 190 people including important farm leaders of India have wrote to PPV&FR authority (copying the Chief Minister of Gujarat and Agriculture Minister) that section 39(1) iv clearly empowers farmers to save, sow, resow, exchange, share and sell harvest including seeds of any variety even if it is registered. The only caveat on this was around sales of branded seeds. This case is a perfect test case to reiterate farmers rights in our law, and the Government should use the opportunity to the fullest to demonstrate which side it is on.” said Mr Jayesh Patel of Gujarat Khedut Samaj.

“Our demand is crystal clear, just as the law is crystal clear too. Nothing less than a reiteration of farmers overriding rights will be acceptable to us and if government wants to help farmers, it should actually get an undertaking from PepsiCo that it will not resort to these intimidation tactics ever again”. . He also questioned the delay in withdrawal of cases by PepsiCo. Moreover, we understand the limited role of Govt that they cannot commit on behalf of farmers”, said Kapil bhai Shah, coordinator of Beej Adhikaar Manch.

“The Gujarat Government is either ignorant of the law, or clearly siding with the American MNC. Why does it even feel that such a deal has to be struck? What happened to its announcement to implead in the case and fight on behalf of farmers, given that the PPV&FR Act is clearly on the side of farmers? Government should refrain from any move that is pro-company and anti-farmer, and which will also be challenged legally and through other means”, said Beej Adhikaar Manch in its statement. “The perceived benefits from contract farming with a few thousand farmers cannot over-weigh the interests of lakhs of farmers of India”.

 

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Kapil Shah, 7567916751