OBC leader Alpesh Thakor on Wednesday threatened to sit on an indefinite hunger strike if the Gujarat government did not announce a complete loan waiver for farmers in the state by the next month. The Thakor community leader claimed that out of a total of 63 lakh farmers in Gujarat, around 40 lakh were under debt.
His demand comes close on the heels of protests in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh by farmers who were pressing for loan waiver, among other things. Farmers in Maharashtra called off their agitation on Sunday after the state government announced a loan waiver. “The situation of farmers in Gujarat is no different from any other part of the country. Out of the total 63 lakh farmers, 40 lakh are under debt. If the Maharashtra government can waive farmers’ loans, then why can’t the Gujarat government do it?” Thakor, the president of OBC-SC-ST Ekta Manch as well as of Kshatriya Thakor Sena, asked.
“I demand that the state government should announce a complete farm loan waiver. We are giving them one week’s ultimatum. If our demand is not met by June 20, we will launch our stir the next day. I urge all the farmers not to pay the loan instalments till the government accepts our demand,” said Thakor.
Starting June 21, farmers across the state will give memoranda to the local authorities at taluka and district levels for two weeks, Thakor, who has emerged as a prominent OBC leader in Gujarat, said. “If this does not work, I along with thousands of farmers would gather at Gandhinagar or Ahmedabad on July 8, 9 and 10. We will sit on an indefinite hunger strike to mount pressure on the government. I urge all the farmers unions to join hands for this mega agitation,” he added.
Apart from the loan waiver, Thakor demanded free water for irrigation, free organic fertiliser and formation of a joint committee of farmers and government to decide minimum support price (MSP) for farm produce. The state Congress unit has also given a call to block roads on June 16 to highlight various issues concerning farmers. However, Thakor accused both the ruling BJP as well as the opposition Congress of playing politics in the name of farmers. “As the Assembly polls are approaching here, both the BJP and the Congress are doing their politics to woo farmers. But, both the parties will have to answer farmers as to what they have done for them so far,” Thakor said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani did not give a clear answer when he was asked if the state government was mulling to waive farm loans on the lines of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. “Our government is pro-farmer. We have taken many important steps for the welfare of farmers. We are doing so many things for them and will do whatever is necessary in the future,” Rupani told mediapersons here today.