Modi govt `callously neglecting` Maharashtra`s onion farmers, alleges Congress

The Congress on Saturday accused the Narendra Modi government of “callously neglecting” Maharashtra`s onion farmers reeling due to the ban on onion exports and said its manifesto promises a predictable import-export policy to prevent such catastrophic last-minute policies being imposed on farmers.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh posed questions to Prime Minister Modi ahead of his rally in Kolhapur.

“Why has the Modi Sarkar jeopardised Rs. 50,000 crores of investment in Kolhapur? Why have “red category” Modani projects been approved in ecologically sensitive areas? Why has the export ban only been lifted on Gujarat`s white onions?” Ramesh said on X.

The Modi government`s decision to prohibit ethanol production from sugarcane juice and syrup is likely to jeopardise Rs. 50,000 crores worth of investments in Kolhapur`s sugar industry, he said.

“In the Maharashtra assembly, the BJP`s own alliance partner Ajit Pawar highlighted that `The industries have taken 95&#37 loan after encouragement from the central government to achieve 20&#37 ethanol blending`. The industry is going to face `unimaginable losses` due to this prohibition,” Ramesh said.

He said this ad-hoc decision will not only hurt sugar mills but sugarcane farmers as well, who were receiving an additional Rs 100-150 per tonne from ethanol production.

“The sudden implementation of this new rule is therefore causing massive disruptions throughout the sugar industry in Kolhapur. Why has the PM dealt this sudden blow to sugarcane farmers and mills? What is his vision to help them recover from it?” Ramesh said.

He further said that in November 2023, a major advisor to Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL) was appointed to one of the Modi government`s Expert Appraisal Committees (EAC), which approves proposals for hydroelectricity projects, like those made by AGEL.

Soon after, in December 2023, residents of more than a hundred villages in Kolhapur rose up in protest against AGEL`s 7,000 crore Patgaon Pumped Storage Project, he said.

Since Kolhapur had been struggling with low rainfall and limited availability of water and no public meetings had been held before the project was granted permission, locals were concerned about the impact the project would have on the worsening water situation, he said.

“Worryingly, this is just one of three Adani projects that have received approval in ecologically sensitive areas of the Western ghats. According to experts, environment ministry officials have `selectively interpreted the law` to allow these `red category` projects in sensitive areas,” Ramesh said.

“Adani`s own environmental evaluations warned of significant damage to forests during construction but the projects were approved anyway. The BJP`s brazen manipulation of the legal process clearly has severe repercussions for local communities and the local environment,” he said.

Why has the PM again put his corporate cronies` interests ahead of the wellbeing of India`s people and forests, Ramesh asked.

“Since December 2023, Maharashtra`s onion farmers have been reeling from the Modi Sarkar`s ban on onion exports. During the cultivation season, the state was hit with unsatisfactory rainfall and water crises, and most farmers were only able to produce 50&#37 of their usual crop,” he said.

When onions were finally harvested, farmers were faced with an arbitrary export ban which led to devastatingly low sale prices, Ramesh pointed out.

“As a result, farmers have racked up significant losses in the last five months. To add insult to injury, yesterday, the Modi Sarkar allowed the export of white onions which are primarily grown in Gujarat. Maharashtrian farmers, who primarily grow red onions, have been left out,” he said.

“Can PM Modi explain why his government is playing favourites? Why have they so callously neglected Maharashtra`s onion farmers? he said.

The Congress Nyay Patra promises a stable, predictable import-export policy to prevent such catastrophic last-minute policies being imposed on farmers, he said.

“What is the Modi Sarkar`s vision to assure farmers of policy stability?” he said and asked the prime minister to break his silence on these issues.

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