'Our demand is simple: Those private players (to whom 94 per cent of the farmers sell their produce) should also buy our produce at the MSP.'
Even as reports of a rift within the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee continue to make rounds, the national convener of the AIKSCC, Sardar V M Singh -- who was removed as the national convener of the AIKSCC following his offer to the government for separate talks to resolve the stalemate between farmers and the Narendra Damodardas Modi government -- remains unfazed.
Strongly refuting reports of rifts within the AIKSCC, Singh tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com that only the AIKSCC national councilcan remove him as national convener.
Singh, who has been targeted on social media by the Bharatiya Janata Party's IT Cell head Amit Malviya for being a 'crorepati farmer' (Singh had declared assets worth Rs 632 crore when he contested from Pilibhit against the BJP's Varun Gandhi in 2009 -- incidentally, Gandhi is Singh's nephew -- and as a 'government stooge' by a section of agitating farmers for his offer to hold separate talks with the Modi government, the man in the hot seat is as calm as an ascetic as he discusses the farmers' protest in the first of a two-part interview.
Are divisions emerging in the AIKSCC? A section of AIKSCC has issued a press release declaring that you have been removed as post of national convener of the AIKSCC.
Not that I know of. You can tell me anything you know of.
How does a statement made by me divide the ALKSCC? My statement is my statement. If some people say something, I don't lose my entity or identity in the AIKSCC.
The AIKSCC National Council has to take a decision. Some people cannot sit back and say that they have done something. The decision (about my removal) has to be taken by the National Council.
So, you still consider yourself as national convener of the AIKSCC?
Of course. Even if a working group of any organisation takes a decision it has to be ratified by the national body. In this case the AIKSCC National Council has to ratify the decision (of removing me from the post of national convener).
Who are these people who have removed you as national convener of the AIKSCC?
I am unwell; I don't know who these people are. Even today, I had a press conference in Ghazipur. Every day at 4 pm we have a press conference; Singhu border (where the other section holds its press conference) has a different press conference.
Are you in favour of continuing the discussion with the government if the government doesn't agree to the farmers' demand for the repeal of the three farm laws?
I have already given our lead demand. If the government agrees that the MSP will be made mandatory and nobody could purchase it for less than the MSP, then why not?
Do you still stand with the AIKSCC demand that the three farm laws should be repealed entirely and a new legislation guaranteeing MSP should be enacted in consultation with the farmers?
The (three farm) laws are bad; in any case they have to go.
Till such time there was a stalemate I had said we will go with them (talk to the government). Even now there is a stalemate and I have given a nice proposal.
I proposed the same thing on November 2, which people (in the government) didn't accept at that point, but which the Supreme Court has now done the same.
The Supreme Court now has asked the solicitor general and the AG (attorney general) if their principals, the government, can keep the laws on hold (till the two parties discuss the fate of the three laws and come to an agreement).
That's what I had proposed that these three laws should be kept on hold, proceed in the meanwhile with discussions, make another bill and if this new bill makes provision for a guaranteed MSP then these three (recently enacted) laws anyways become infructuous.
Agar government atak rahi hai toh aisa rasta nikalo ke saanp bhi mar jaye aur lathi bhi na toote (If the government is finding it difficult to repeal the three laws, then find out a solution that both sides come out of it victorious without any harm to anybody's stated position). That is the most sensible measure to break the stalemate.
But still a section of farmers within the AIKSCC are adamant that the three farm laws should be repealed first. Why are they adamant and not willing to accept the proposal you had suggested?
That is for them to answer, not for me.
That is where the question emerges if there is a division with the AIKSCC.
How can I answer a question about a decision somebody else has taken? I can clarify about the decisions I have taken.
But this section of farmers is saying that they are part of the AIKSCC and you are not. That from now only the AIKSCC working group will decide upon the next course of action.
The working group members of the AIKSCC can have their individual opinion if they want to. Nobody is stopping them. We all can have our individual voices. We can all do that (voice our individual opinion).
So, is the AIKSCC planning to ratify your removal?
For that you have to call a meeting of the National Council (of the AIKSCC). So long as there is no meeting of the 250-odd organisations that convene in Delhi for the AIKSCC National Council, this decision can't be taken. Who has the time for this right now?
Given these differing views between you and the others, don't you think the government has succeeded in creating a rift within the AIKSCC?
Not at all. There is no rift within the AIKSCC. There are two issues here.
One is the leadership (issue within the AIKSCC) and the other is theissue (of guaranteed MSP).
You can say there is a rift, if there is any rift over the issue of guaranteed MSP. But there is no rift on the question of our central demand (guaranteed MSP).
Both the factions want a guaranteed MSP law?
That's right. That's right.
When I met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in our very first meeting, I had clearly told them that these three laws have to be repealed and make a fourth law which will guarantee MSP to the farmers.
Do you agree with other members of the AIKSCC that the written proposals sent by the government after the final meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah failed to address the central concerns of the farmers?
They (the Union government) have to make a legislation (guaranteeing MSP). How else can the farmers' concerns be addressed?
They (the Modi government) keep saying that MSP will not go; that it existed in the past; it exists now and it will continue to exist forever.
Our demand is that there should be purchase at the MSP. The private traders too should purchase our produce at the MSP and nothing less than the MSP. Now, the issue is many states do announce MSP but farmers don't get their produce purchased at the MSP.
If the government buys from six percent people (from farmers at the MSP), 94 per cent farmers sell their produce to private players.
Our demand is simple: Those private players (to whom 94 per cent of the farmers sell their produce) should also buy our produce at the MSP. That's all.
Be it the Adanis or the Ambanis, who cares (so long as farmers get a guaranteed MSP).
If the farmers get this guarantee, this protection, that's the end of it. What else do we want?
If a law is enacted guaranteeing MSP, will that help farmers get out of their debts or help India's agriculture sector become more profitable for farmers?
It may not be gone (the indebtedness), but it will be reduced to a great extent.