Farmers protest in Gujarat against RBI circular on cooperative banks

Surat, Nov 19 (IANS) Thousands of farmers from all over south Gujarat took out a huge procession in Surat on Saturday to protest against the RBI circular to keep district cooperative banks out of the process to exchange demonetised currency.

The protesters also demanded payments for their produce in currency which is still a legal tender.

Farmers from Surat, Tapi, Navsari and Valsad districts marched into Surat along with paddy, pulses, sugarcane, fruit and vegetables and milk cans loaded in over 50 trucks, 150 tractors and 100 trolleys and threatened to dump the produce in front of the District Collector’s office.

The farmers later poured several canisters of milk on to the main roads and accused cooperative dairies of not paying them in currency of Rs 100 and lower denominations.

The protest — the first ever in Gujarat by farmers since the November 8 demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes — was organised by the Gujarat Khedut Samaj, a non-political body.

The march began from the Jehangirpura Cotton Ginning Mill and culminated at the District Collectorate at Athwa Lines, where farmers offloaded a part of their agricultural produce as a mark of protest.

In a memorandum submitted to the District Collector, the farmers demanded that the Reserve Bank of India allow the district cooperative banks to exchange demonetised notes just as was the case with nationalised and private banks since most farmers operate their accounts in these banks.

Over 200,000 farmers in Surat district have accounts in various district cooperative banks.

The memorandum said farmers were unable to sell their produce in agricultural markets and to cooperative dairies and even private traders due to demonetisation. The farmers rued they were unable to buy seeds and fertilisers.

Several political leaders, including from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have protested the RBI decision to leave out cooperative banks from currency exchange. Some have threatened an agitation against this decision.

Gujarat has 18 district cooperative banks, with the BJP controlling over 12 of them. Even BJP president Amit Shah has been associated with the cash-rich Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank for a long time.

Several Congress workers poured milk on the roads at Anand, known as the milk capital of the country, to protest against demonetisation.

As many as 30 Congress workers were detained in Ahmedabad as they tried to barge into the RBI regional office after holding a protest rally.