Gujarat: Farmer leaders in Rajkot end hunger strike after local BJP leader’s assurance

Commission agents of Gondal APMC and Rajkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry had also extended their support to the farmers strike. (Representational)

BHARATIYA KISAN Sangh leaders and commission agents of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) of Rajkot ended their indefinite hunger strike on Sunday, four days since they began, after local BJP leader Devraj Sakhiya gave them a written assurance that their demands would be met.

Devraj Sakhiya, the president of Rajkot district unit of the BJP and chairman of Rajkot APMC, met the fasting farmer leaders at the Rajkot APMC yard and handed them a letter signed by him after holding long discussions with them. The 12 fasting farmers, led by Dilip Sakhiya, president of Rajkot district unit of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and Atul Kamani, president of commission agents association of Rajkot APMC, then ended their hunger strike on Sunday afternoon.

The hunger strike had begun on Thursday with the demand that farmers of Saurashtra be paid crop insurance for cotton, that the government desilt check dams in the region as Saurashtra is experiencing a drought, to augment irrigation facilities and that instead of direct procurement of farmers produce through National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), the government introduce the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana. Under the Bhavantar scheme, the government does not physically procure farmers produce but pays producers the difference between the minimum support price and a modal price in case farmers produce is sold at a price lower than the MSP in the APMC. The commission agents of APMCs in Saurashtra had gone on a strike last year saying the direct procurement of groundnut by the government would rob them of business, and had demanded that the government instead introduce the Bhavantar scheme.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Devraj Sakhiya said the government had already decided to look into the issue of crop insurance payouts and desilting of check dams. The government has already decided that the crop insurance to cotton cultivators will be paid very shortly. Check dams were to be desilted under (Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan) but could not be done due to the Model Code of Conduct of which was in force due to the Lok Sabha election but now it will be taken up, he said.

Earlier in his letter to the farmers, he had said, The farmers demands pertaining to crop insurance, desilting check dams and introducing Bhavantar (Bhugtan) Yojana in Gujarat seem very reasonable and appropriate. The satisfactory way for the government (to end farmers protest) would to accept the reasonable demands of the farmers.

His letter of assurance also promised that farmers would be paid crop insurance within 30 days. Not only that, on behalf of the BJP government in the state, I assure that past incidents wherein cotton and groundnut growers were paid negligible crop insurance and had thus been meted out injustice will not be repeated. I also assure to do whatever is required to introduce Bhavantar scheme in all the APMCs in Gujarat. and to desilt, repair and new check-dams, the letter read.

However, speaking to The Indian Express, Devraj Sakhiya said the government was not in favour of the Bhavantar scheme, The government is not thinking positively about the Bhavantar scheme as it was a not a success in Madhya Pradesh as there were allegations of corruption in its implementation, said the BJP leader.

Earlier, on receiving the letter from Devraj Sakhiya, Kamani said, While it is true that Sakhiya has given us a written assurance as a BJP leader, it is obvious he has done so only after consulting the state government. Kamani said, explaining that he had been in the APMC since the day they started the fast-unto-death but never visited them. He must have given us the assurance after speaking to someone in the government, Kamani added.

Commission agents of Gondal APMC and Rajkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry had also extended their support to the farmers strike.