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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014
Farmer discontent in Modi’s backyard
Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times
Mehsana, December 12, 2012
First Published: 01:06 IST(12/12/2012)
Last Updated: 01:09 IST(12/12/2012)

When chief minister Narendra Modi promised sops to farmers in the BJP manifesto — subsidising loan interest and agriculture summits on the lines of Vibrant Gujarat meets — he was addressing a long-standing grouse, which rings loud and clear even in his home district, Mehsana.

In fact, the disparity — the neglect of farmers vis-à-vis the championing of industry — would surprise even a casual traveller.

Outwardly, Mehsana is prosperous. Instead of the usual thatch and tiles, one sees pucca houses with 24/7 electricity and water. A bike or sometimes even a car is parked outside.

So, what can prevent a BJP victory across its seven seats? The feeling of being left out of the Vibrant Gujarat bandwagon.

“Our village, like many others, is doing well not because of agriculture, but service, enterprise and animal husbandry. If anyone relies solely on agriculture he is doomed,’’ said Kishorebhai Choudhary, a farmer from Magroda village in Vishpur taluka.

Mehsana’s farmers grow multiple crops — cotton and wheat and jowar and castor. But life is tough for a farmer, said Choudhary. Barring a few basics, the Modi government has not been able to usher in a green wave. Like neighbouring Saurashtra, the challenge here is water.

With no canals supplying water from dams other than Dharoi, tubewells are the mainstay of farmers.

But then, tubewells are costly and the ground water table is low. Many farmers have formed groups to share the expenses — R10 to R12 lakh. Water has to be pumped from a depth of 1,000 metres. 

In the end, the cost of production is so high that like elsewhere in the country, farmers barely make ends meet. Patels comprise 70% of Mehsana’s population and they have been loyal to Modi. But this time, even the loyalists are asking questions.

“The Gujarat government talks of 9% growth in agriculture, but it’s all propaganda,’’ said Maganbhai Patel, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the farmers’ wing of the RSS. Over the last couple of years, Patel has been openly taking on the Modi government.

“We, farmers subsidise food for the nation. And, what does our government do? It subsidises industry,” said farmer Vallji bhai Choudhary of Magroda. “I want to ask Narendrabhai, when will Vibrant Gujarat reach the villages?”


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