Delhi: Farmers Protest Hike in GST on Dairy Products and Machinery
New Delhi: Dairy farmers across the country staged a protest at Jantar Mantar near Parliament on Wednesday against imposition of GST (goods and services tax) on dairy products, machinery and machines related to milk products.
The protest was called by the Dairy Farmers Federation of India (DFFI), affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).
During the protest, DFFI called upon all farmer organisations in the country and joint platforms, including the Samyukt Kisan Morcha to join their protest to ensure that the anti-farmer decision of the government was revoked through struggles.
The decision to hike GST was taken in the recently held 47th meeting of the GST Council. The hike comes into effect from Monday, July 18.
The protesting farmers said prices of several everyday essentials will further increase, digging a deeper hole not only in household budgets but even in farmer incomes.
Already, the hike in GST has spiked prices of curd, lassi, rice, wheat among various essentials.
Reports suggest that the huge increase in the prices of cattle feed in many states has added to the troubles of dairy farmers.
Terming Wednesday’s protest as ‘symbolic’, Bharat Singh, a dairy farmer from Uttar Pradesh, said: “This is a warning to the government to withdraw its anti-farmer and anti-people decision, otherwise we will agitate as before (referring to the year-long farmers movement)."
Singh said milk and its products are an important source of income for farmers in the area in UP in hails from. Hence, after imposition of GST by the government, their production costs will rise as will the market prices of their products. As a result, people will buy less which, in turn, will hit farmers from both sides, as a farmer is a producer as well as a consumer.
AIKS leaders alleged the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre was not only attacking the concept of cooperative federalism enshrined in the Constitution but was also using GST as a weapon for this.
“With the increase in GST rates, cooperatives working in this sector and small firms engaged in value addition will be ruined as they will not be able to compete with big corporate houses due to the increase in expenditure and working capital. It will also destroy the rights of the states and their financial autonomy. This is a disgusting example of centralisation of political power and capital," said AIKS.
AIKS national president Ashok Dhawale said: “The livestock sector contributes about 25% to the value of agricultural output and the production of milk and is a major source of income for nine crore families. It is directly related to domestic food security and GST on dairy products will work to eliminate it."
Dimple Yadav, a woman farmer leader from Haryana, said: "Haryana is recognised by its milk and curd. The milk producing farmers of the state are already in trouble due to heavy rain,” adding that farmers were also facing a fodder problem due to waterlogging in the fields.
“There has been a huge increase in the prices of fodder, which has increased the production costs of farmers. Now this new GST is like rubbing salt on our wounds,” she said.
She said instead of helping farmers, the BJP government was troubling them more and cited the ban on transportation of green fodder from one district to another in Haryana.
Narrating the endless woes of farmers, she said: "in the last few years, animal husbandry has become very expensive. The government has also banned cattle fairs in which farmers used to earn money by selling their old and unused animals. As a result, the number of stray animals in villages has increased significantly.”
Anita, another woman farmer from Haryana, said: “Animal husbandry is a source of income for women and farmers in villages. It plays an important role in making women financially strong in rural areas. But such anti-farmer decisions will lead to the collapse of the economy."
It may be recalled that India is the largest milk producer in the world. Krishnaprasad, a DFFI leader and financial secretary of AIKS, said more than nine crore families are associated with the dairy sector in the country, out of which three-fourths of rural households have only 2-4 cows.
Increasing GST on dairy products and machinery will adversely affect the livelihood of these farmers as well as their nutritional status, the AIKS leader said, adding that this would negatively affect the nutritional needs of the people belonging to the economically weaker and oppressed sections.
Krishnaprasad said the cost of producing milk was increasing continuously. Therefore, dairy farmers are demanding that to reduce the cost, 200 days salary should be paid by the Central government to farmers who rear two cows under MGNREGA, the rural job guarantee scheme.
He cited the example of Left-ruled Kerala government that is making payments to farmers engaged in animal husbandry in urban areas under one such scheme. Due to the scheme, the production cost of farmers had declined, he said, adding that if the Left Front of Kerala can do this, the Narendra Modi government at the Centre can also do the same.
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