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NDA MP: 'The farmer is extremely furious'

June 10, 2017 19:12 IST

'The farmer is furious because the MP government is trying to crush their agitation violently.'
'Such actions will have nation-wide repercussions.'
'Why this drama (MP Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan's fast) after violently crushing the farmers' agitation?'
'He should resign immediately.'

Farmers in Maharashtra

Raju Shetti, the Shetkari Sanghatna Member of Parliament from Maharashtra's Hatkanangale, will meet the five-member committee appointed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to negotiate with farmers' representatives about their charter of demands at 1 pm, Sunday, June 11.

When Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore asked Shetti, (below, left) if the second phase of the farmers' agitation will be peaceful, the MP, who is part of the ruling National Democratice Alliance in New Delhi and Maharashtra, said, "We will try, but won't guarantee anything."

Shetti -- whose Shetkari Sanghatna's Sadabhau Khot is a minister of state for agriculture in the Fadnavis government -- was non-committal when asked if he would ask his minister to quit his ministry if the farmers' demands fail to pass muster with the Maharashtra government.

Shetti, who visited Madhya Pradesh in disguise because the MP police is clamping down on farmers' leaders meeting their counterparts in Mandsaur, alleges the violence in the neighbouring state was incited by a Bharatiya Janata Party leader and claims he has video evidence to support his belief.

"The hope that farmers had from the prime minister has developed cracks. The farmers are feeling let down by Modi," Shetti said.

What will be on the table from the farmers' side when you meet the group of ministers constituted by the state government to solve the crisis in Maharashtra?

Complete waive off of loans, immediate implementation of the Swaminathan Committee recommendations, uninterrupted electricity supply at reasonable rates.

There are reports that various farmers' organisations are already divided among themselves about their demands... How true are these reports?

There is no truth in this report.

There are some misunderstandings among some section of farmer leaders and we are in talks with them.

We will persuade them before our meeting and I am confident of putting a united front to the government at tomorrow's meeting.

Which decision of ours have these farmer leaders opposed? We haven't yet made any decision which these leaders are allegedly opposing.

These leaders were part of the meeting that was held yesterday (June 9) in Nashik.

Could you tell us what has gone so wrong with the farmers of Maharashtra that they are out on the streets protesting against the government?

The most important reason for this situation is the natural calamities with which these farmers have been struck in the last three years.

There were droughts, excessive rainfall, hailstorms and storms across Maharashtra; that has led to huge capital investment losses for farmers.

Simultaneously, their agricultural produce failed to get a fair, remunerative price, and that led to a huge increase in the losses suffered by Maharashtra's farmers.

Their combined effect has led to farmers getting into a debt trap.

Why isn't the farmer getting a fair price for his crop or the minimum support price?

The way in which minimum support price id decided is flawed.

Whose responsibility is it to deliver a fair, minimum price for farmers' agricultural produce?

It is the central government's job.

Then what purpose will it serve to meet the state's ministers? You should meet Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh?

While I admit that, and the Centre too has been shirking its responsibility by saying that agriculture is a state subject, shouldn't the state government be forced to pressurise the Union government for meeting the demands of its farmers?

We want the state government to put forth our demands effectively to the central government. It is the central government that decides on the minimum support price.

Doesn't the Maharashtra government have any responsibility towards its farmers?

Who do you blame in the state government for failing to articulate farmers' demands to the central government?

The Centre has been trumpeting that agriculture is a state subject, but the state government has failed miserably in putting forth farmers' demands to the central government.

It is the state that must forcefully tell the central government that is its responsibility to fix fair and remunerative MSP.

The Maharashtra government has failed its farmers.

Do you think that demonetisation and digital transactions have also played a role in bringing farmers to their knees?

I will not say there is a direct link between the two. But it is equally true that farmers faced severe hardships because of demonetisation.

When demonetisation was announced the farmers were reaping the Kharif crop and later the Rabi sowing season began.

During this crucial period of 50 days the farmers could not make use of his own money because of the restrictions on withdrawal and deposits imposed by Narendra Modi.

Circulation of more than Rs 5,000 crore belonging to the district cooperative banks came to a standstill because of demonetisation.

Because of this the farmer was unable to withdraw money from his own account and today at the onset of monsoon they are not getting farm loans because this money is still trapped.

District cooperative banks are saying their old notes are yet not remonetised by the RBI (Reserve Bank of India).

The RBI is saying not all accounts are KYC-compliant (know your customer).

We have got nothing to do with if that money is black or white, but the only truth is this money (Rs 5,000 crore) belongs to the farmer and since this money is trapped in the system, farmers are not getting loans.

The farmers can't withdraw their own money and that is how the farmer is getting distressed.

Let the government imprison all those who deposited money (during those 50 days) without complying with the KYC norms.

Why are you grinding the farmer in this mess?

This (demonetisation) is also one of the reasons why the farmers not just in Maharashtra, but throughout India furious with the (central) government.

Shetkari Sanghatna MP, Raju Shetti

What message would you like to convey to Prime Minister Modi?

The farmers in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana are out agitating against central government policies, and gradually this movement is spreading to Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh.

The farmers of India are slowly uniting against unjust agricultural policies.

In this situation, you cannot wash your hands off over loan waivers and MSP by saying that agriculture is a state subject.

The prime minister should take the lead in resolving this agrarian crisis and help states reeling under farmers' agitations.

The central government has a bigger responsibility in waiving off farmers' loans than the state governments.

Even if agriculture is a state subject, it is the central government that makes policies for agricultural trade and commerce.

Do you think the prime minister is running away from the promises he made to farmers during his 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, of waiving off farm loans and implementing the Swaminathan Committee's recommendations?

He should honour his promises to the farmers.

The hope that farmers had from the prime minister has developed cracks. The farmers are feeling let down by Modi.

And I am saying this based on my recent visits in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

What is the situation of farmers in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh?

Shetkari atyant santaplela aahe (The farmer is extremely furious).

He is furious because the MP government is trying to crush their agitation violently.

Such actions will have nation-wide repercussions.

The MP government is attacking farmers' freedom to agitate for their just rights.

People are restricted from meeting the farmers there.

I went there in disguise yesterday (June 9) from a Rajasthan village into Madhya Pradesh. The situation there is dangerous.

They have banned the Internet and WhatsApp too.

Basically, the violence in Madhya Pradesh is instigated by BJP leaders.

Is this just an allegation or do you have proof?

I have all the necessary evidence to prove that a BJP leader is responsible for inciting violence in Madhya Pradesh.

I have the video clips of how this leader incited the farmers.

Will you present these clips to the MP police?

If they ask us, why not?

And why do the police need any proof?

The entire sequence of this event happened before the MP police and they chose to remain mute spectators because a BJP leader was involved.

It began with this event in Pipliyamandi where while the entire area had shut shops in support of farmers, only two shops -- one belonging to a trader who sold Patanjali products and the other owned by the BJP leader -- were open.

When villagers went there and requested these two shops down shutters, the BJP leader beat them up mercilessly with an iron rod.

One person beat up 25 people?

I have the video clip of this entire sequence.

The video shows the BJP leader running after and beating farmers with an iron rod.

All this happened in front of the cops and they did nothing to stop this man from attacking farmers.

They were, in fact, enjoying the proceedings.

One of the farmers' spine was broken in this attack and he succumbed to his injuries later.

His wife too committed suicide yesterday (June 9).

This is what has been happening in Madhya Pradesh under the watchful eye of the police since this agitation began and that has made the farmers very furious in Mandsaur and they went on a rampage.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has begun a fast for peaceful resolution of the farmers' agitation.

Why this drama after violently crushing the farmers' agitation?

He should resign immediately.

The Shetkari Sanghatna, of which you are a founder and MP, is in coalition with the BJP-led Maharashtra government.
Are you planning to withdraw support to the government if your demands are not met?

The reason that I am part of the government gives me courage to speak up against this government.

But you will not withdraw from the government?

We have not supported this government to do injustice on the farmers.

You are demanding Shivraj Chouhan's resignation for crushing the farmers' agitation, but want to continue in the Maharashtra government despite launching an agitation against it.

I have started feeling suffocated in this government, but I cannot take the decision to withdraw from the government without holding a meeting of our executive council.

Will you promise the nation that your agitation will not make use of violence to put pressure on the state government to accept your demands?

We will try, but won't guarantee anything.

Prasanna D Zore / Rediff.com