PepsiCo India, on Thursday evening, decided to withdraw lawsuits against the nine farmers who had been slapped with a lawsuit by the company for “illegally” growing and selling a variety of potato registered by them under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001.
JN Singh, state chief secretary said, “The company officials will be meeting us at Gandhinagar on Friday, to look into the details of the arrangement.”
In a statement, PepsiCo India’s spokesperson, said, “PepsiCo has been in India for the last 30 years. Over the years, the Company has developed a best in class collaborative potato farming program which has benefited thousands of farmers across the country. The program which included several market awareness initiatives has resulted in farmers getting access to higher yields, enhanced quality, training in best-in-class practices and better prices, all leading to improved livelihoods. To safeguard the larger interest of farmers, PepsiCo India was compelled to take judicial recourse to protect its registered variety. PepsiCo from the very start had also offered an amicable settlement to farmers. After discussions with the (state) government, the company has agreed to withdraw cases against farmers. We are relying on the said discussions to find a long term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection.”
The six lawsuits slapped against nine farmers had sought damages ranging from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 1.05 crore. PIH has accused the farmers of illegally growing, producing and selling the potato plant variety ‘FL-2027’ (commercial name FC-5), “without permission of PIH,” for which the company is the registered breeder, under the provisions of the PPV&FR Act, 2001. Four from Vadali taluka in Sabarkantha district had been slapped and five others from Modasa taluka in Aravalli district.
In March 2018, PIH slapped two special civil suits against five farmers – One, with defendants Prabhudas Patel, Bharat Patel, Jeetu Patel and Vinod Patel, and second with defendant Jigarkumar Patel – all from the Aravalli district. The company had demanded Rs 20 lakh in damages in each of the two suit.
On April 5 this year, the company had further slapped commercial trademark civil suits on four others – Bipin Patel, Vinod Patel, Chabilbhai Patel and Haribhai Patel – all from Sabarkantha district, seeking Rs 1.05 crore in damages.
Amidst uproar across the nation, among activists and farmers unions, Nitin Patel, deputy chief minister had said on April 27 that the government will seek to be added as a party in the lawsuits to back the farmers. Later, on Wednesday, the state government had been in talks with the company for an out-of-court settlement.