Farmers in the state, who travelled several kilometers in the hope to reach out to BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi with their problems on Thursday, returned dejected, as many venues hosting the third round of Chai Pe Charcha programme lacked a video-conferencing facility that would have enabled a dialogue with the leader.
In the Savli area of Vadodara Constituency, from where Modi will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls (along with Varanasi), farmer groups arrived with questions to ask Modi about their plight and future. But the absence of an interactive system to go ‘live’ left them disappointed.
As farmers gathered at the Gandhi Chowk location in Savli over virtual tea with Narendra Modi, the buzz about having a prospective Prime Minister contest from here was accompanied by scepticism about the execution of the promises. Farmer groups from villages in Savli taluka, thus, arrived armed with a series of petitions for Narendra Modi at the venue.
While the organic farmers wanted Modi to include the issues of sustainable farming in his manifesto, some farmers from the Rajupura-Daulatpura village wanted to know how many more years would it take for their fields to get water through the canals built about 15 years ago.
Badri Patel, an organic farmer from Savli, who also heads the association of sustainable farming called ‘Jabak’ said, “I am here to ask him if he would consider promoting us. We are less than 1% of the farmers.”
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Farmers from Rajupura-Daulatpura village wanted to know why the Narmada river canal, built in the late 1990s, has remained dry, leaving farmers at the mercy of monsoon. Hitesh Patel, a farmer, who participated with a handwritten note for Modi said, “The dependency on monsoon for farming is one of the major reasons for farmer suicides. We have been petitioning the state government for several years that canals are dry, but there is no reply from them at all. If Modi is concerned about farmers and he is also contesting from here, he should give us a chance to raise these issues before him.”
Similar was the case at Bakrana village in Sanand taluka of Ahmedabad district which is in close proximity to the automobile companies that have recently set up base in Gujarat. “I have come all the way from Kamijala, 70 kilometres from here (the venue), to tell Modi that due to Narmada canal construction in our village, water stagnates over most of the agricultural land throughout the year, making it unfit for even rice cultivation,” said Bhanuben Parkar, the only female who reached the event at Bakrana. The venue chosen for the event was not a tea-stall, but a temple.
Some farmers who came to the event had come prepared with a set of issues pertaining to their problems. Though over 200 farmers were in the audience, there was no facility for these farmers to ask questions when the event began. “There is no video-conferencing facility here,” said a representative of Videocon which is partnering in this event.
Meanwhile, Arjunsinh Jadhav, a farmer from Alandra village who had turned up at Kalol town, 30 kilometers from Godhra in the Panchamahals district, wanted to put across the problem of lack of Narmada canal network in the region that made them dependent on rain water for farming. “We can’t do farming for all of 12 months. We hope when Modi goes to the Centre as PM, he helps us sort out the issue,” Jadhav said. Similar was the problem faced by another farmer, Rajendra Patel, who had come to the venue from Godhra. However, they were not able to put across their point due to the lack of an interactive facility. The event was a complete wash-out at Bhesan village in Choryasi taluka of Surat where only eight people, including the sarpanch of the village, turned up. When questioned about the poor turnout, Naresh Patel, the sarpanch, said, “The farmers of our villages and other neighbouring villages have no problems. We get sufficient water for irrigation. Farmers gets seven-hour water supply and our roads are in good shape.”
With inputs from Aditi Raja, Ritu Sharma, Kumar Anand & Kamaal Saiyed