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'We are in no mood to celebrate Har Ghar Tiranga'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
Last updated on: August 15, 2022 11:51 IST
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'We will celebrate Independence Day as usual, but not this celebration from August 15 to 22 (as sought by the Modi government).'

IMAGE: Farmers hold the Tricolour as they ride a tractor in Jaipur on the eve of Republic Day 2021. Kindly note the image has only been posted for representational purposes. Photograph: PTI Photo
 

Anil Ghanwat, president of the farmers' organisation Shetkari Sanghatna and the Swatantra Bharat Party, was a strong advocate of the three farm laws enacted by the Narendra Damodardas Modi government.

Ghanwat was a member of the Supreme Court-appointed farm panel that looked into suggesting recommendations to the Modi government on the three farm laws that were abrogated by Parliament later.

"So when farmers are suffering, when they and their families are having tears in their eyes, when they are dying by suicides, how can we celebrate?" the farmer leader tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com, explaining why the party he heads will not participate in the Har Ghar Tiranga programme. The first of a two-part interview:

Why has the Shetkari Sanghatna decided not to participate in the Har Ghar Tiranga programme launched by the Modi government?

I would like to correct you. It is not the Shetkari Sanghatna doing it, but the decision to not participate is taken by the Swatantra Bharat Party and I am the national president of that party.

We have appealed to all the farmers to join us in this agitation. The reason being freedom (economic or social) has not reached the farmers at all in the last 75 years.

This agitation is not against any ruling party, against the BJP but against all the parties that have ruled India since 1947.

All political parties since Independence through agricultural and industrial policies adopted by them have exploited farmers. This exploitation has led to farmers becoming impoverished, slaves of the political class and now they are dying by suicide. Still the government is not ready to change its (agricultural) policies.

Even today farmers don't get remunerative prices for their produce as there is a ban on export of wheat, sugar, oil seeds, pulses, etc; the policy of governments banning exports of onions overnight have deteriorated fair price discovery of onions exported by Indian farmers.

There was a time when India had almost 40 per cent share of onions produced globally. Now it has reduced to 8.5 per cent.

So when farmers are suffering, when they and their families are having tears in their eyes, when they are dying by suicides, how can we celebrate?

It is not a matter of celebration, but hoisting the Tricolour atop homes?

Of course, we will do that on August 15 as we do it every year.

Why plan a celebration when we are not in the mood, not in the situation to do so? The farmers of Vidarbha have lost their crops (1.07 million hectares of standing crops have been damaged in June and July due to heavy rains) and no one is paying any heed to their plight.

How many farmers are likely to join your agitation of not celebrating the Har Ghar Tiranga programme?

The number is above one lakh right now, but in a couple of days our agitation will gather momentum. We have asked farmers to write short letters describing their sense of despondency to the prime minister.

They will mention about restrictions on (direct) trade (of agricultural produce), usage of modern technologies, landholding, which are not welcome in a free country like India. Where is the freedom for farmers?

In fact, farmers feel enslaved and shackled because of the agricultural policies implemented in India right since Independence.

Since the first Constitutional Amendment brought in in 1951 -- the Ninth Schedule -- farmers are not allowed to go to courts if they are cheated, if their lands are taken away for development projects or if governments impose any restrictions on exports or impose limits on stockholding of agricultural produce.

Farmers have no rights to protest against such blatant injustices. We can't go to courts. Is this freedom? Bharat is still enslaved by India.

The British have left and the Indian masters have taken over and the farmers are not happy. We are in no mood to celebrate (Har Ghar Tiranga) but we will celebrate Independence Day as usual, but not this celebration from August 15 to 22 (as sought by the Narendra Modi government).

What will make farmers celebrate programmes like Har Ghar Tiranga?

It is not possible this year because it will be a long struggle to have our (agricultural) policies amended. Our agricultural policies need a complete overhaul. When that happens, not only the farmers but the whole country will feel like celebrating not just Independence Day but every day of their lives.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
 
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