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'Govt is wasting time till Model Code of Conduct'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
February 22, 2024 11:01 IST
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'They just say we agree to your demands in the meetings, which is lip service. But on the ground they do not implement anything.'

IMAGE: A huge crowd of agitating farmers gathers at the Shambhu border (Punjab-Haryana) as they resume their Delhi Chalo March, February 21, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

With neither the protesting farmers nor the government showing any sign of resiling from their position, there seems to be no early end to the crisis.

Pushpendra Singh, president, Kisan Shakti Sangh, one of the organisations which is participating in the agitation, believes that the government is not serious about finding a solution to the farmers' demands.

 

"No one (in the middle class) wants to fight. Go on to vote in the name of the Ram Mandir for Modi, it is the wish of the middle class and this is the route that they have chosen. We farmers have chosen our route, that we will fight for our rights," Pushpendra Singh tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com in the concluding segment of the interview.

Why couldn't the Amul success story be repeated in other farm products?

It is a long answer and deserves another interview. What you must understand is that we have demanded for MSP guarantee and this MSP is based on M S Swaminathan's formula of C2 + 50.

Suppose the MSP of a crop is decided at Rs 3,000 per quintal, then the law must ensure that no one will buy that crop for less than Rs 3,000 per quintal.

Right now we do have a law where the MSP is declared by the government, isn't it?

There is no law, but it is just an announcement or declaration of MSP.

There are only 23 crops whose MSP is decided twice every year, once during the Rabi season and Kharif season.

The government only announces the MSP rate, but on the ground the crop is not selling at MSP.

We just want the government to ensure that nobody buys that crop at lower than the declared MSP price. This is what we are demanding from the government.

There has to be a legal guarantee to buy that crop at that price.

We are not telling the government to procure all the crop produce from farmers at that stipulated price.

We are just saying, let the government buy as much as they want for themselves for the Food Security Act reasons, and beyond that when the private sector wants to buy, legally he should not be allowed to buy below the MSP price.

We are not putting any burden on the government.

IMAGE: Agitating farmers move away after the Haryana police fires tear gas shells to disperse them as they resume their Delhi Chalo March at the Shambhu border (Punjab-Haryana), February 21, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

But the problem is farmers produce things in excess which people do not want to eat. For example, wheat and rice farmers produce such a huge quantity that most of it rots in godowns.

I will give you an example from the Mumbai city viewpoint since you hail from Mumbai.

If a train monthly pass, say from Churchgate to Virar, is for Rs 3,000 per month and tomorrow if the railways says that there is a particular train running between Churchgate and Virar, if you catch that train then the cost of the monthly pass will be Rs 1,500.

What will passengers do in this situation? They will obviously buy the cheaper option. And the entire rush will go to that particular train.

This is the same thing which the Government of India has done to farmers for MSP. They will announce MSP for all the 23 crops but they (procure) give MSP only for rice and wheat. This leads to a mad rush among farmers to sow rice and wheat.

The same thing will happen in Mumbai trains if the railways sells the monthly pass at Rs 1,500 to catch any train between Churchgate and Virar, then there will be no rush in that particular train which was charging Rs 1,500 per month for a ride.

Today, farmers are producing more wheat and rice because the government purchases these two farm produce at the right rate. The rest 21 out of 23 crops do not get that rate for farmers and sell below MSP.

Why do political parties, when they are in the Opposition, speak of implementing the M S Swaminathan formula of C2 + 50 for farmers?
Narendra Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat said this then and the Congress rejected his proposal, but now the same Congress which is in the Opposition wants the C2 + 50 formula for farmers and the BJP, which is in government, refuses to give it?

It is because the parties know that when they come to power and not implement their promises, farmers will not agitate and demand the implementation of the M S Swaminathan report.

During the UPA (United Progress Alliance) government when the Swaminathan report came out they constituted a committee which was headed by Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister. It is his own committee report which says that a legal guarantee needs to be given for MSP.

This report is written by Modi as he was the chairman of that committee in 2011. He also said this in his public meetings before the 2014 elections, that MSP has to be implemented for farmers.

But didn't the BJP government file an affidavit in the Supreme Court in 2015 stating that they will not be able to implement MSP to farmers in accordance with the Swaminathan report?

Yes, they said they will not be able to implement it. They said if they do that 'gadbad ho jayegi (chaos will strike).'

But now the Congress says it will implement MSP. This is the same party which refused MSP for farmers when they were in power. Why do only Opposition parties love farmers' demands?

Now this has become a movement and will not stop easily. Take the example of the middle class. They are paying the same tax rate for the last nine years but corporate tax has been reduced from 30 percent to 22 percent.

Did corporate guys do an agitation or die on roads demanding a reduction in their taxes? Around Rs 15 lakh crore was written off by the government in the last nine years, but did you see any corporate agitating to implement these things? Did anyone throw tear gas on them? The answer is no. It was all done quietly.

The problem is that the middle class in cities is sleeping. Believe me, if the government doubles the income tax, still no one will come on roads. They do not want to fight and when you do not want to fight, who will listen to you?

When corporate tax can be reduced to 22 percent why should general income tax be around 35 percent? That too should have been reduced.

But no one (in the middle class) wants to fight. Go on to vote in the name of the Ram Mandir for Modi, it is the wish of the middle class and this is the route that they have chosen. We farmers have chosen our route, that we will fight for our rights.

IMAGE: A huge crowd of agitating farmers gathers at the Khanauri border in Punjab's Sangrur district as they resume their Delhi Chalo March, February 21, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

What is the government saying to your demands?

They just say we agree to your demands in the meetings, which is lip service. But on the ground they do not implement anything.

This has been going on for the last two years.

They are just wasting time in meetings so that the Model Code of Conduct is implemented, after that they will say we cannot do anything.

Lastly, the impression among many city-dwellers is that the farmers who are protesting are rich farmers. They are protesting in expensive tractors and wear branded clothes.

Rich people do not sleep on roads and protest.

If the farmers were rich they will not agitate.

No rich farmer will send his son to face police tear gas.

Why will a rich farmer send his son to die in protest? He will let him sit in the air conditioned home and relax.

In the last agitation 700 farmers died.

They are sleeping on roads as their condition is very bad.

No one comes and sees the sad plight of farmers in villages. This is a sad reality.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
 
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