South Gujarat Farmers Revolt: Failure of Cash Crop Due to Cash Crunch They Warn Modi

Demonetization: South Gujarat farmers protest, warn Modi, it will lead to failue of winter crop due to cash crunch

Farmers from across south Gujarat districts choked Surat city roads on November 19 as a mark of protest against demonetisation and the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) decision restricting majority of the cooperative banks from dealing with the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

Farmers dumped grain and poured milk on the streets in massive rallies in Surat and Anand on Saturday to protest the withdrawal of high denomination currency notes and restrictions imposed on district central co-operative banks (DCCBs) on exchange and deposits. In Surat, thousands of farmers under the banner of Gujarat Khedut Samaj (GKS) gathered at Jehangirpura in the Randher area in the afternoon, and travelled nearly 10 km through the city with truck-and tractor-loads of wheat, sugarcane and other agricultural produce to the office of District Collector M S Patel at Athwalines.

Tens of thousands of farmers joined in the massive rally starting from the Jehangirpura cotton gin to collector's office in Athwalines on November 19. Most of the farmers carried the truck loads of sugarcane, rice and vegetables which theydumped on the road outside the collector's office to register their protest against RBI and the Central government's lackluster attitude on the woes of the farmers community.

Farmer leaders said there are over 6 lakh bank accounts belonging to the farmers in district cooperative bank. The farmers are unable to withdraw money from their own accounts as the RBI has restricted the cooperative banks from accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. There is commotion in the villages, especially among the farm labourers, who have to literally spend their days without food.
Leader of the Khedut Samaj, Darshan Naik told the media, "Farmers are part of the cooperative sector. All the payments and deposits are made through the cooperative banks. There are over 22,000 mandlis across south Gujarat where the farmers sell their agriculture produce. The mandlis are not getting money from the cooperative banks due to RBI restriction and thus they are unable to pay to the farmers."

Naik added, "The situation of sugarcane workers is worse. There are 12 sugar mills in south Gujarat employing over one lakh workers. Around 95 per cent of them have not received wages due to the demonetisation. How will they survive? These are some of the big questions concerning the farmers community."

Former chairman of district cooperative bank, Dilip Bhakt said, "It seems the RBI is treating the farmers as terrorist and thus they are not allowed to either deposit or withdraw money from the cooperative banks. If this will continue for another few days, farmers will have tough time and people will die of hunger."

Farmers' protest against demonetization in Surat; Courtesy: Counterview

The farmers of South Gujarat have taken up cudgels against the Government of India's controversial decision to ban Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, saying it has led to severe cash crunch, leading to complete failure on their part to begin farming for the winder season and sell their agricultural produce, especially vegetables.

Warning that if cash crunch does not end immediately, says a memorandum forwarded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with a copy to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the winter season will be a “failure” for the farmers, who are already suffering because of low prices in the monsoon season. 

Pointing out that they “will be further distressed”, the memorandum, submitted to the Surat district collector following a well-attended vehicle rally under the banner of Gujarat Khedut Samaj (GKS), says, “If the crops of vegetables, wheat, sugarcane and paddy are affected there will be an unprecedented rise in the prices which will affect the entire population of the country.” 
It adds, “Owing to lack of cash liquidity and difficulty in procuring essential items there may be issues of law and order that also arise.” As for vegetable growers, the memorandum adds, they cannot sell their produce in the market due to the cash crunch, as there are no buyers.

“Ultimately the cash crunch also affects the final purchases and sales by the end consumers in the retail market”, the memorandum complains, adding, the cooperative societies, too, are facing cash crunch, as they need lakhs of rupees daily to be disbursed to the farmers. 

What has made things worse, the memorandum says, is that the “freeze” imposed by the Government of India on district cooperative banks (DCBs) and their financial transactions. 
“This put the cooperative societies are in a bind: they cannot turn down the farmers and their produce, but they also cannot pay them the cash for the produce”, it underlines. 

You are aware that the monsoon crops of cotton, groundnut, sugarcane and paddy have reached the markets. At present, even the traders of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) do not have the capacity to buy these crops. 

“Currently the farmers are scrambling in order to meet the daily cash requirements for the winter crop such as seeds, fertilizers, fuel and wages”, the memorandum says. 
Pointing out that even today most Gujarat villages do not have branches of nationalized banks, and very few of the rural people have the ability to operate accounts, the memorandum says, “Even the few who do have accounts, have them with the branches of DCBs.” 

It adds, “The accounts of the milk cooperatives and the agricultural cooperatives are also linked to district cooperative banks.”

In this circumstance, the memorandum says, “The government’s action of keeping the district cooperative banks outside the purview of financial transactions smacks of distrust on farmers, milk producers and cooperatives.” 

It adds, “On account of this ill-thought decision the farmers, maldharis (milk producers) and agricultural labourers in rural Gujarat have been reduced to the plight of beggars despite having money on them.” 

“With a cash withdrawal limit of Rs. 3,000 against a daily requirement of lakhs of rupees daily in the peak agricultural season is making it difficult for the farmers to continue their agricultural operations”, the memorandum says. 

Against this backdrop, the memorandum asks Modi to immediate lift the freeze imposed on the DCBs. “If there is severe distrust of the DCBs then use their infrastructure to open counters of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on their premises”, it underscores.

Recently, the Congress won all 36 seats out of 36 in the Unjha Taluka Panchayat election in Gujarat.

Courtesy: Counterview



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