Milk farmers on Monday poured gallons of milk on the streets near the Odisha Assembly to protest against the imposition of Goods and Services Tax on dairy products, including pre-packed and pre-labelled curd, cheese, lassi and buttermilk.
“What benefit will we get? We will only lose our customers. Once the rates go up, the demand will fall in the rural belt. We all need to understand that India lives in its villages. People can manage to live without milk products. We will be victims of distress sale of milk and dairy products,” said Odisha Milk Farmers’ Association president Rabi Behera.
Carrying banners with demand to roll back the GST on dairy products and other essential items, farmers gathered on the Master Canteen Square streets and poured milk on the roads from huge cans.
Raising slogans like “Modi sarkar down down”, “Gabbar Singh tax nehi chalega”, “Grihasthi sarvnaash tax wapas karo”, the farmers demanded immediate roll back of 5 per cent GST on milk products and other essential items.
“Why the government of India is not imposing GST on petrol and diesel? The imposition of 5 per cent GST on dairy products and other essential items will ruin the livelihood of common people,” said Manas Mohanty, a farmer.
The farmers are selling milk at Rs 26.78 per litre to the Odisha State Cooperative Milk Producers Federation (OMFED) and a consumer buys it at Rs 46 per litre. “Once the GST is being imposed, the packed milk price will go up. It will not serve the cause of farmers. The cost of dairy products would go up. It’s the customers as well as the farmers who will be hit hard,” said another farmer Niraj Behera.
The farmers narrated how they have been the victims of traders and no one has ever taken up the issue on their behalf. “As the grazing land both in towns and rural areas is gradually shrinking, farmers depend on the cattle feed. But the price of cattle feed has gone up. Badam Pidia, which was earlier sold at Rs 1,400 per quintal, is now being sold at Rs 1,680. Where the farmers would get money to meet the rising costs. Will the money accrued from the GST be shared with farmers?” asked another agitated farmer.
With the hike of 5 per cent GST on milk and dairy items, the OMFED is likely to announce a hike in the price of milk products soon, sources said.
The protest drew public attention with many people turning up to lend support to the cause.
“GST has been imposed even on milk food for babies. These people have not even spared them. Our kitchen budget will go up as several household items have become costlier including puffed rice and jaggery,” said Madhumita Pradhan, a working woman who also takes care of her kitchen.