CV News/ Friday, May 03, 2019
Gujarat potato farmers sued by PepsiCo have rejected the top multinational corporation’s (MNC’s) announcement that it would withdraw cases against them under certain terms and conditions, asserting that Indian farmers’ seed freedoms are non-negotiable. Talking with media in Ahmedabad, one of the four potato farmers, Bipin Patel, flanked by half-a-dozen farmer leaders, said, “We learn from media that they will withdraw cases against us, but this should be unconditional.”
Chhabilbhai Patel and Vinodbhai Patel, also present on the occasion, added that they should be paid compensation for the harassment they were subjected to even though the law is very clear on the subject, regretting, while the Gujarat government is learnt to be negotiating with PepsiCo, it has still not talked to them.
According to them, the court proceedings came as a shock to them, including the amount of damages that the company was claiming – Rs 1.5 crore each. It was clearly trying to intimidate and harass us. Its real intention might have been to wipe out competitors from the market, but it chose to harass farmers, they added.
Farmers’ rights leader Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust, coordinator of the new body formed to fight against PepsiCo, Beej Samprabhuta Forum, insisted, “There cannot be any tampering with the legal rights contained for farmers in the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001, which surpass the breeders’ right, in the name of ‘long term and amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection’.”
Shah said, PepsiCo seemed to take a step backwards only after the news of the MNC suing the farmers “gripped national attention”, with “Indian and global citizens taking to social media with loud boycott calls against PepsiCo” after around 200 activists and social workers “wrote to concerned government authorities to intervene and protect farmers’ rights” on April 24.
Claimed Shah, “PepsiCo is already on the backfoot, opting for an out-of-court settlement.” On April 27, Gujarat’s Deputy Chief Minister stated that the government would implead in the case. On May 1, there was news of government trying to get an out of court settlement going. On May 2, PepsiCo spokesperson put out a statement saying that the company will withdraw the cases.