The rally, attended by thousands of farmers from across the state, was led by the president of the Gujarat wing of BKS, Maganbhai Patel. The protest today followed several smaller rallies by farmers from different regions of the state.
The farmers’ organisation’s main demand is that MSP for cotton should be raised from the current Rs 810 per 20 kg to Rs 1,500. They have also sought higher MSPs for all agriculture produce.
The rally is significant as it is the first time in recent years that any Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed organisation has taken to the streets against the BJP-ruled central and state governments on the farmers’ issue.
Patel expressed his dissatisfaction with the Narendra Modi -led central government and claimed it has failed to address this important issue concerning lakhs of farmers in Gujarat.
“We have been making representations to the Centre about the MSP issue for the last two months, but it seems that it is simply not taking the issue seriously and using delaying tactics. Even the BJP-led state government is yet to respond positively,” Patel said.
According to Patel, the present MSP of Rs 810 per 20 kg being given to cotton farmers is not justified as farmers incur more than Rs 1,000 as total cultivation cost per 20 kg.
“It is not merely for cotton, but the MSP of all agricultural produce should be increased. The MSP must include the cost as well as 50 per cent as profit margin. Purchase centres should be based at the village level and not at the town level.
“We also want solutions to many other problems. To address them effectively, we plan to strengthen our organisation,” Patel said.
In a related development, even as Patel was addressing the protest rally, he received a call from Gujarat Road and Building Minister Nitin Patel, who conveyed the state government’s decision to give a “relief package” of Rs 1,100 crore to all farmers. Patel, however, dismissed the offer.
As per a release issued by the Gujarat government, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has declared a “relief package” of Rs 1,100 crore for all farmers in the state, including the cotton growers.
The package includes a 50 per cent subsidy on interest on short-term agricultural loans availed by farmers, which comes to around Rs 600 crore. Another component is a 50 per cent subsidy on farmers’ electricity bills, which comes to around Rs 500 crore.
However, Patel refused to accept the Gujarat government’s proposal and promised to continue with the agitation until the original demands of the farmers were met.
“It seems that the government is feeling the heat. They have accepted some of our demands, but we refused their proposal. We want a total solution to our problems. Our agitation will continue until our demands are met,” Patel told reporters.
“If our demands are not met, we will protest outside the residences of all our local MLAs who don’t seem to be supporting us. To strengthen our organisation, we plan to launch a drive from January 1 to January 15 and register around 50 lakh farmers in 18,000 villages of the state,” he said.
Patel, meanwhile, also announced that corrupt politicians and government officials in Gujarat would be exposed through the publication of the details of their property, land and businesses.
He claimed that by doing so, BKS merely wished to “help” the Prime Minister in making India free of corruption.
“Since our Prime Minister wants an India free of corruption, BKS wants to help him by exposing corrupt politicians. We have asked farmers to find out details of all corrupt officials as well as politicians and submit these to BKS within a month to know how much money they made,” Patel said.