The Gujarat government has decided to back four potato farmers in their fight against PepsiCo’s ₹4.2 crore lawsuit against them for allegedly infringing its rights by growing the potato used in Lays chips.
Earlier in the week, leading rights groups and individuals working for farmers’ rights in the country had sought the Central government’s intervention to protect at least eleven farmers in Gujarat against whom PepsiCo India had slapped lawsuits.
“The farmers in their representation had sought the state government’s help. Today, the state government decided that we will seek (the court’s permission) to be added as parties backing the farmers in all the ongoing cases. We will have our government lawyers fight the case (for the farmers). What PepsiCo India has done is unfair and we fully support our farmers,” said BJP leader Nitin Patel.
Senior Congress leader from Gujarat Ahmed Patel said it was a “wake-up call” for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, adding, “why have they been sleeping for so long when an MNC is taking our farmers to court? The Centre is yet to take any action, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority should have intervened.”
PepsiCo has already offered to settle the case out of court in the wake of boycott calls, which have spread to global social media. However, the company is still insisting that the farmers stop using its registered variety of potato and surrender their existing stocks, or join its corporate farming programme which involves an exclusive buyback clause.
The case goes up for hearing in an Ahmedabad civil court on June 12.