Notwithstanding the move to bring FDI in retail being put on hold in the face of stiff opposition, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said the UPA government was determined to implement the decision.

Addressing a series of meetings in Uttar Pradesh on the fourth day of his five-day mass contact programme, Mr. Gandhi said FDI in retail would be of immense help to farmers, who could save their produce from rotting by taking advantage of the cold storage chain that the FDI would bring in, and thus get the right price.

At a meeting in Farrukhabad, the largest potato-growing district in the country, Mr. Gandhi said 60 per cent of vegetables went waste and FDI would provide a chance to the farmers to sell their produce directly.

The Opposition, however, has stalled the move, calling it “anti-farmer”.

At another meeting in Kannauj, Mr. Gandhi said the government would certainly bring in FDI in retail despite stout resistance from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and all Opposition parties.

Mr. Gandhi said he saw, when on his way to Kannauj, how pigs were eating potatoes littered on the road.

“After a year's hard work, farmers have to see this situation,” he said. Had FDI in retail been there the farmers would not have seen such “bad days”.

Mr. Gandhi said farmers complained that the market price of potato was Rs. 2 per kilo while the big companies sold potato chips at Rs. 10 per packet.

The Amethi MP said FDI in retail would benefit, not harm, farmers in the long run.

‘False support'

Coming down on the Mayawati government's apparent show of support for farmers, Mr. Gandhi pointed to the vast tract of land, stretching from Noida to Gorakhpur, allotted to private builders.

Sharpening his attack on the Samajwadi Party, Mr. Gandhi alleged that during the party's rule in the State, criminals enjoyed influence in police stations and no case would be registered there.

He alleged that the Bahujan Samaj Party would siphon off money meant for development schemes in the State.

Mr. Gandhi said none of the Opposition leaders ever visited people of the villages but they ridiculed him for taking the initiative.

Rashid Masud, who recently quit the SP and joined the Congress, said he converted after SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav “rejected” his plea for reservation for backward and poor Muslims.

Mr. Gandhi said the Prime Minister would take a decision on reservation for Muslims when he felt it appropriate.