Just days after the Union Home Ministry moved against the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) for the alleged lobbying and violation of foreign funding norms, a huge hoarding was found near the Health Ministry’s office in Nirman Bhawan in New Delhi, Indian Express reported. The hoarding praised the central government for taking action against some NGOs and also demanded to audit the “recipients of foreign and government funds”. Earlier in November, when a WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) related conference took place in Greater Noida, scores of similar posters were seen sticking to the rear of many autorickshaws in the NCR. These posters reportedly spoke against the “the hidden agenda of agencies engaged in anti-tobacco campaigns”. These posters were found to having the same taglines of “Protect our Livelihood”. Indian Express reported that the posters had been issued by a two-year-old Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur-based organisation called the Federation of All India Farmer Association (FAIFA). FAIFA describes itself as a “non-profit federation whose mission is to support the farming community in India and create a sustainable future for farmers”.
According to reports, the posters that were found outside the Health Ministry in Delhi read, “We appreciate that government has heard our appeal and taken action against some NGOs. We appeal that government should get a CAG audit done against all recipients of foreign and government funds to identify individuals who have made illegal gains and punish them. Our fellow farmers have committed suicide due to their acts.”
FAIFA is headed by B V Javade Gowda, who is described as a tobacco farmer. The association told IE that it was urging the government for the removal of tobacco tax anomalies at the time of rolling out of the Goods and Service Tax bills. It must be noted that tobacco is currently taxed at the highest GST slab of 28 per cent. In a statement, FAIFA said, “GST is an opportunity to remove tax arbitrage in tobacco taxation and disincentivise illegal and contraband products which have been flooding the Indian market. GST is also an opportunity to remove discrimination among the various class of tobacco farmers. There should not be any discrimination among cigarette, bidi, chewing-tobacco farmers”.