Amid corruption and bureaucratic red-tapism, RSS farmers' body warns Centre of stronger agitation if unheard
RSS-affiliated farmers' body BKS has raised a red flag against the existing government policies related to the agricultural sector and the bureaucratic functioning, alleging that these factors have impoverished Indian farmers and compelled them to commit suicide.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated farmers' body Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has raised a red flag against the existing government policies related to the agricultural sector and the bureaucratic functioning, alleging that these factors have impoverished Indian farmers and compelled them to commit suicide.
Hundreds of farmers from across various states, backed by the BKS, hit the streets of New Delhi on Monday protesting against government policies and demanding immediate attention on farmers' issues. The right-wing farmers' body has urged the lawmakers to rise above party politics, do a joint analysis of various problems and issues plaguing the farm sector and chalk out a comprehensive national policy.
The anger among the farmers was so strong that they didn't stop short of criticising the BJP government at the Centre and in the states. The BKS — a union of 20 lakh farmers from 450 districts across the country — has warned that if the government fails to pay heed to its demands, they would go on a massive agitation programme in September.
Sharing a view similar to that of the apex court, the all-India general secretary of BKS, Prabhakar Kelkar told Firstpost, "Till Independence, India was dominantly an agricultural nation. But after that gradually under the Congress rule over the decades, there was decline in agricultural growth rate, in capital investment and in budgetary allocation. Had agriculture been given priority status, we could have been the largest exporter of food grains. It's high time that the MPs rise above petty party politics and chalk out a comprehensive national policy for agricultural sector by analysing the problems plaguing farmers." He said that both the government and the bureaucracy have to get rid of the colonial mindset of framing policies without consulting farmers who are the real stakeholders.
"In the last 20 years, more than three lakh farmers have committed suicide in our country and lakhs of farmers are under heavy debt. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured that the farmers would get right price of their produce, but unfortunately it didn't happen. If the situation continues, the farmers would be compelled to go on a large-scale agitation across the country. The time has arrived for the Indian farmers to rise and fight for their rights," he further added.
The representatives of the Kisan Sangh, who personally visited the Prime Minister's Office on Monday afternoon to give a memorandum of their demands, have urged Modi for a 25-year roadmap to ameliorate the condition of farmers.
"The government has to prepare a roadmap for 25 years, so that the decline in agricultural growth and impoverishment of farmers could be prevented. The lawmakers and bureaucrats of this country, who are involved in the decision-making process, should stop looking at foreign countries while drafting policies. The situation of the farm sector and farmers in India are different from other countries. Every country has its specific socio-economic needs and a global formula can't be implemented. The farmers' need to be consulted prior formulating policies," said Kelkar.
Hundreds of farmers had gathered at Jantar Mantar on Monday for a day-long demonstration and consultation on what steps need to be taken to make the government listen to their demands.
"Earlier, at the Centre it was the UPA government, with Congress party ruling in large number of states. But now the scenario has changed with the BJP at the Centre, which also has its strong government in many states. Still the condition for farmers hasn't changed. The BJP has failed to fulfill the promises it had made in its election manifesto in 2014. Government has no set standards even today for the prices of agricultural produce like wheat, mustard, etc," Sudhir Chaudhry, a farmer and BKS office-bearer from Jaipur pointed out.
Many farmers, who came with documentary proofs collected through RTIs have different tales to tell on corruption, poor administration and bureaucratic red-tapism.
"Take the case of Rajasthan. The farmers of this state suffer due to lack of water for irrigation and supply of electricity. It takes more than a month for the state's electricity department to give connection to a farmer, once he applies for it. Let the government gives us 2% interest on our land and do the farming, and then they will realise the pathetic condition of farmers," added another farmer Ramesh Chandra Sharma from Dausa in Rajasthan.
"Besides, BKS, other farmers' unions in the country have also been raising issues, but government is maintaining a stoic silence. If the government fails to pay any heed to our demands, we'll undergo fast unto death agitation," quipped Balbir Singh, a farmer from Punjab.
Besides, the issue of minimum support price (MSP), the BKS has also raised the issue of secondary source of income for the farmers.
"At present, a farmer can't survive alone on farming. He has to have a secondary source of income. Besides, increasing the budgetary allocation in the farm sector, the government has to ensure to bring in the enterprising farmers in food processing sector, so that employment could be created," said Kelkar.
Here are the list of demands of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh to the Prime Minister:
- Lawmakers should rise above party politics and formulate a single comprehensive policy for the farm sector by calling a special Parliament session.
- Proper and time-bound supply of water, electricity, fertilisers and seeds to farmers.
- Availability of an assured market for the farmers' to sell their produce.
- Effective mechanism for purchase of crops/produce through institutions like Food Corporation of India, etc, so that the farmers may not face losses.
- Time bound payment to farmers in Mandis (agricultural markets).
- Smooth transportation of crops and vegetables to Mandis.
- A farmer should get a minimum price of his crop, which can compensate the input cost. It should be based on the cost calculated by the agricultural research institutes and universities, and not on the whims and fancies of bureaucrats.
- Create opportunities so that a farmer can have a source of double income.
- Encourage organic farming.
- Profitable price to farmers of their produce; guaranteed purchase of crops.
- Agriculture is a state subject. While the Centre should focus on policy framework, the state governments have to create conducive atmosphere for the farmers to thrive. Payment to farmers in Mandis is one of the biggest problems. The traders make payment through cheques, which takes more than three days to get cleared. If they pay in cash to farmers, they deduct 1% of the total price of the produce. It's pure exploitation. The farmers face exploitation in several stages while selling their produce in Mandis," added Kelkar.
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