Madhya Pradesh Congress has refuted the allegations made by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government against them of instigating farmers to resort to violence during their agitation in Mandsaur and in other parts of the state. A Congress team led by former MP from Mandsaur, Meenakshi Natrajan and former minister Narendra Nahata met officials of the Mandsaur district administration on Friday and demanded a fair inquiry and punishment for those found guilty of committing crime, even if they are found to be from the Congress party.
Natrajan, who is also a member of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's core team, spoke to Firstpost on the farmer agitation and her party's plan.
What do you have to say on the allegations levelled against the Congress by the state government?
These allegations are completely false. Congress doesn't not believe in instigating farmers to resort to violence. By making such allegations, the BJP government in the state wants to divert the attention of people from its own failures. First, the government said that the police didn't fire at farmers during the agitation. Next, they said there are anti-social elements behind it. They changed their stance again and claimed it was done by opium smugglers. Later, they took a u-turn again. How can a 10-year-old government make such irresponsible statements without verifying the facts?
Who are behind this agitation?
There is no particular group or union or political party behind this agitation. The call was given by the farmers who are frustrated and angry as the state government has failed to address their grievances. It all started in a village in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra. The villagers passed a proposal of waiving their loans and implementation of Swaminathan Committee's recommendation under which the Minimum Support Price (MSP) would be the total cost of production plus 50 percent of the weighted average. Other villages also followed suit, following which, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan farmers extended support to the movement. Things worsened in MP, when police fired at the innocent farmers in Pipaliya Mandi, Mandsaur and five farmers got killed. It was cold blooded murder. To disperse the mob, the police should have fired in the air and then used tear gas shells, instead they pumped bullets into the chest of two farmers. This enraged the agitating farmers.
What demands did you make after meeting with the district administration?
We met Mandsaur collector and superintendent of police. We have asked for an impartial and fair inquiry into the violent incident. Demanded compensation for the family of Ghanshyam Dhakad, a farmer from Badwan who died on Friday due to police excesses during the protest and to find the missing villagers. Our vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders were illegally and undemocratically barred from entering Mandsaur. This should be stopped. Restore internet connectivity in districts as it has been causing students problems.
The MP government received Krishi Karman Award for five years in a row for its stellar performance in agriculture sector. It has registered 13.9 percent average agricultural growth rate between 2010 and 2015. Despite all this, why did the farmers start large-scale agitation?
You can read statistics as much as you want but numbers can be fudged — it is evident if you compare the price charts of agricultural produce of the last three years. Farmers are unable to get the right price for their produce. While yield and average production have gone up, prices have dipped. The chief minister did not pay heed to the farmers' demands like waiving of loans. Both the Centre and the state are silent on this issue. The farmers are suffering and the chief minister has no solution for them.
What is the Congress planning to do next?
On Thursday, Rahul (Gandhi) said that he would take these issues at the national level. We'll reach out to people, hold discussions with farmers and create nationwide awareness on issues bothering farmers.
Published Date: Jun 09, 2017 10:45 pm | Updated Date: Jun 09, 2017 11:10 pm