Madhya Pradesh farmers' strike: RSS farmers’ union forewarned Centre in April about large-scale agitation

Mandsaur: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliated farmers' union Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) agrees with the opinion that the violent outburst among the farmers in Madhya Pradesh, that has led to a large-scale destruction of public property and death of six farmers, was all but inevitable. However, the farmers' body doesn't approve of the violent means adopted by the farmers in the state.

Madhya Pradesh farmers have been protesting to get better prices for their produce. PTI

Madhya Pradesh farmers have been protesting to get better prices for their produce. PTI

Speaking at length with Firstpost, the all-India vice-president of BKS, Prabhakar Kelkar, said that the union – a body with a strength of 20 lakh – which works at the ground-level amongst the farmers, has seen how their anger got accumulated due to a failure in implementation of policies of the government.

In an earlier interaction with Firstpost, during a day-long demonstration at Jantar Mantar in Delhi in April, Kelkar, who has been a senior pracharak in the RSS, had cautioned and foretold that 'if the demands of the farmers across the country was unheard by the government, it might take the shape of a stronger large-scale agitation across the country'.

Excerpts from the interview:

How were you so confident that the farmers' agitation would become stronger, aggressive and spread across the country?

Bharatiya Kisan Sangh works at the ground-level amongst the farmers for their issues. Wherever we visited, we found deep frustration and anger amongst the farmers. It was reaching a boiling point and somewhere it had to explode. Unfortunately, it happened in Mandsaur.

Do you approve of the violent means employed by the farmers?

Personally, neither I nor our organisation approves to such violent means. But, it was an outcome of an accumulated anger that the farmers have been harbouring within themselves. It was inevitable and was bound to happen. We had cautioned the government several times and apprised them about the deteriorating condition of the farmers and the agricultural sector.

The new generation young farmers are impatient. The income of farmers is declining and instead of being a 'profitable venture' – as promised by the government – it has turned into a ‘ghaate ka sauda’ (bad deal).

What factors precipitated this large-scale agitation? 

Though Madhya Pradesh has witnessed growth in agricultural production, the income of farmers has gone down drastically. The farmers in this state are unable to get the right price for pulses, gram, mustard, potato, onion etc.

There are several factors. First, the farmers have failed to get the right price for their produce. They are not getting the minimum support price (MSP) for their produce. At grain mandis, the traders are buying at a much lesser price. Second, considering the forthcoming monsoon, the farmers are compelled to sell at a lower price – because he needs to buy seeds, fertilisers, etc. If the government has announced MSP, it should also ensure buying crops from farmers at that price. The absence of an effective buying mechanism has compelled farmers to go for a distress sale.

Third, in spite of the fact that there has been a bumper production of Tuar dal (pulses), the government imported it in large quantities. As a result, the domestic produce has failed to get the right price. There is an export-import imbalance. The Ministry of Agriculture and Civil Supplies department are unaware of the ground realities.

Fourth, at mandis, the traders are exploiting farmers by delaying their payments against the sale of crops on the pretext of payments made by cheques.

Fifth, the BJP, in its election manifesto, had promised that it would implement Swaminathan committee’s formula under which the MSP would be the total cost of production plus 50 percent of the weighted average. But, it didn’t happen.

Sixth, the government doesn't have the budget to buy produce from farmers; resultantly, traders and middlemen have been exploiting farmers.

There is a fault in state government's policy as well. For example, it announced Moong as a third crop and put it in the commercial category. There's bumper production of Moong this year but, due to this policy, the farmers failed to get the right price.

There are several other issues bothering the farmers. The government talked about doubling farmers' income. Instead, it has virtually been halved. Disillusionment, frustration, anger and trust deficit, all got compounded and resulted in this large-scale violent agitation.

During the initial phase of the farmers' agitation, that began on 1 June, BKS was a part of it along with other farmer unions but later withdrew. Why?

The decision was taken by our state unit. Probably, they felt that the movement was getting directionless and decided to withdraw. The way this agitation has got murkier proves that there was a lack of unanimity between the unions.

The agitation has now turned into hooliganism and the common man has been attacked. Life in this western belt of Madhya Pradesh has come to a sudden halt.

Do you see any conspiracy of political forces behind this act?

Politics comes later, especially in this farmers' agitation. The basic reason of this violent outburst, as I have told, is the growing anger among farmers. They needed an outlet and it took an unfortunate turn. How long can a poor farmer continue fighting for his rights? However, there are opportunists who have now jumped into the fray to fulfil their ulterior motives. There are hooligans, too, who want take advantage of this agitation under the garb of protecting farmers. Farmers may have angst within themselves but they can’t resort to criminal acts of this kind.

In spite of the Madhya Pradesh government's assurances to the farmers, this agitation is spreading beyond Mandsaur. How do you see this?

In the last 10 years, the condition of agriculture has improved in Madhya Pradesh. But, due to the government's failure to redress the grievances of farmers and non-implementation of several measures announced by the state government, the farmers have lost faith in the government. Assurances won’t do. The government needs to act faster. The agitation is not only spreading to other districts of western Madhya Pradesh but in other states as well.

What is your opinion on waiving loans of farmers?

The newly formed Uttar Pradesh government under Yogi Adityanath announced loan waivers to farmers. This led to farmers from other parts demanding the same. Maharashtra government has also announced that a committee would study the modalities of the loan waiver scheme. Now, this fire will spread in other states as well. How can a decision taken by Uttar Pradesh, be replicated for the rest of India?

The UPA government waived loans of farmers; but it’s not a permanent solution. I feel that instead of waiving the loan, the government should ensure that a farmer can utilise the said amount for purchasing seeds, fertiliser and agricultural inputs for his benefit.

Considering the present situation, what's your suggestion to the state and central governments?       

As we had proposed earlier, Members of Parliament have to rise above petty politics and chalk out a comprehensive roadmap for the next 25 years and devise a national policy by calling a special Parliament session, so that the decline in agricultural growth and impoverishment of farmers can be prevented. We have sent this proposal to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well.

Meanwhile, the state government has to patiently hear from the farmers by visiting village panchayats. Proper dialogue has to be initiated with various stakeholders. They should ensure that any kind of assurances made now, need to be implemented in word and spirit. The government has to take responsibility and mere promises won't work anymore.

Updated Date: Jun 09, 2017 11:09 AM

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