Throwing its weight behind farmers who have been sued by PepsiCo India for allegedly illegally growing and selling a “registered” potato variety without its permission, the Gujarat government will move the court seeking to become a party to all such lawsuits, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said on Saturday.
This comes a day after the Indian subsidiary of the US food and beverages giant offered out-of-court settlement to the four farmers of Sabarkantha district against whom it has slapped lawsuits, demanding Rs 1.05 crore from each of them as “damages” for allegedly growing and selling a potato variety — FL-2027, commonly known as FC 5 — which the company claims is its registered variety under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right (PPV&FR) Act, 2001.
Earlier in the week, leading rights groups and individuals working for farmers’ rights in the country had sought the Central government’s intervention to protect at least eleven farmers in Gujarat against whom PepsiCo India had slapped lawsuits. PepsiCo India has filed cases against the farmers in at least three civil courts in Gujarat since 2018 after carrying a sting operation.
“The farmers in their representation had sought the state government’s help. Today, the state government decided that we will seek (the court’s permission) to be added as parties backing the farmers in all the ongoing cases. We will have our government lawyers fight the case (for the farmers). What PepsiCo India has done is unfair and we fully support our farmers,” Nitin Patel told The Sunday Express, adding that the finer details of the government’s approach will be made public on Monday. He also said that the government will initiate talks with PepsiCo India “to mediate” in the dispute.
The government’s statement came hours after the Opposition Congress asked the BJP government in the state to not “shut their eyes” to what was happening to the farmers.