Representatives of food and beverages major PepsiCo India, which has decided not to pursue the cases it has filed against potato farmers in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, met state officials Friday seeking "amicable solution for everyone".
Senior officials including Chief Secretary J N Singh and Additional Chief Secretary of the agriculture department Sanjay Prasad met PepsiCo India representatives in Gandhinagar.
"PepsiCo representatives informed us that the company has decided to withdraw cases against nine farmers in Gujarat," Prasad said after the meeting.
The company will now file necessary applications in the concerned courts, he told reporters. The company's delegation was led by Jagrut Kotecha, Vice President, Snacks Category.
"We came here to update the government about our decision to withdraw cases against farmers. The meeting was positive. It was aimed at bringing an amicable solution for everyone in the longer run," he told reporters.
The multi-national firm has sued nine farmers from Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts for allegedly growing a variety of potato for which it claims Plant Variety Protection (PVP) rights.
Following public outcry, it announced Thursday that it will withdraw the cases.
Meanwhile, following the PepsiCo's litigation, some 25 major farmers' bodies including Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) along with activists and NGOs have decided to form a central body, Seed Sovereignty Forum, to protect farmers' rights to seeds.
A meeting to chalk out an action plan under this umbrella body was held Friday at the Gujarat Vidyapith, said farm rights activist Kapil Shah.
"We demand that the withdrawal of cases must be unconditional. We also want the company to pay compensation to these farmers for causing harassment. The law is crystal clear and it says that farmers' rights will always supersede the rights of seed breeders. Farmers' right over seed is non- negotiable," he said.
Registrar of Gujarat Vidyapith, Rajendra Khimani, called for spreading awareness among farmers about various laws that protect them.
"All the Acts are in English, not in the language understood by the majority of farmers. As a result, they are not aware of their rights. There is a need to make such laws available in local languages. We also need to keep a watch on any attempt aimed at diluting such pro-farmer laws," Khimani said.
Chhabil Patel, one of the farmers sued by PepsiCo, said they used rejected potatoes as seeds, a common practice in villages.
"We have been wrongly framed. After grading, PepsiCo takes only large-size potatoes (to make chips of Lays brand), while small potatoes are discarded. Such rejected stock is available everywhere. We sowed only those potatoes. We have now realized that even the law allows us to do so," Patel, who hails from Sabarkantha, said.