The Congress on Friday promised that if the party is voted to power in Gujarat, where assembly elections are due by the yearend, it would waive farm loans of up to Rs 3 lakh and provide free electricity for 10 hours daily to farmers in the state.
Gujarat Congress president Jagdish Thakor also said that his party would bring in a law to prohibit the purchase of farm produce below the minimum support price (MSP).
Notably, the opposition party in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state made these announcements days after the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made a host of promises, including free electricity of up to 300 units every month and allowance for unemployed youths as well as women above the age of 18 years of age.
"Though the ruling BJP claims that Gujarat is a power surplus state, farmers are not getting adequate electricity for agriculture. If Congress comes to power, it will provide free electricity to farmers for 10 hours, that too during the day. We will also withdraw penalties and cases of electricity theft lodged against farmers," Thakor said in a press conference in Ahmedabad.
Other senior Congress leaders, such as Arjun Modhwadia and Tushar Chaudhary, held press conferences in Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara on Friday to make announce these promises.
"Farmers in Gujarat are reeling under huge debt. But instead of providing a relief, the BJP had waived loans of industrialists. In the first cabinet meeting after coming to power, the Congress will make a decision to abolish all the farm loans below Rs 3 lakh," Thakor said.
Apart from bringing a law which would ban the purchase of farm produce below MSP, Thakor promised that the Congress government will also pay an additional Rs 20 bonus on the purchase of 20 kg farm produce from farmers.
Other promises made by the Congress include 33 per cent reservation for women in cooperative bodies in the state, change in laws to "free cooperative sector from the clutches of BJP" and a bonus of Rs 5 per litre to cattle-rearers in addition to the milk procurement price.
Thakor said his party, which has been out of power since 1995 in Gujarat, will confer the status of 'farmer' to all the cattle-rearers, which will empower them to buy agricultural land.
Alleging irregularities and corruption in the preparation of new land records using satellite mapping by the Gujarat government, the Congress leader also promised to scrap it and conduct a fresh mapping exercise in a "scientific manner".
"We will also set up Agri Assistance Centres in each village to provide guidance to farmers. To help the cultivators in getting more income from their farm produce through value addition, we will set up agro-based MSME units in each taluka to process agricultural produce," said Thakor.