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'How can we trust the prime minister?'

November 27, 2020 17:12 IST

'The Modi government is not listening to us. So now we are coming to Delhi to talk with the central government.'

Photographs: Kind courtesy Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh

Thousands of farmers have been trying to pour into the national capital as part of their 'Chalo Dilli' protest against the new farm laws passed by the Narendra Damodardas Modi government.

And with the Delhi metro shut and borders sealed, the stage seems set for a grim showdown between the protestors and the government.

Abhimanyu Kohar, the national spokesperson of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, who is part of the group of farmers marching towards Delhi, tells Prasanna D Zore/ that their demands are threefold: Revocation of agriculture laws, an MSP guarantee law and withdrawal of the proposed Electricity Bill, 2020.

"It's not just about Narendra Modi, this is about every politician in India," says Kohar.

How many farmers are part of your protest against the Modi government's agriculture laws?

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, who is leading one of the many farmers's protests is a federation of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee and Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal group) and BKU (Chandauni group). This is a joint front formed recently by more than 500 farmers organisations from all over India.

Around two lakh farmers from various states in India have started their journey towards Delhi day before yesterday (<em.Wednesday, November 25, 2020). As we speak (around 11.30 pm, November 27, 2020) these farmers are just a hundred kilometres away from Delhi in every direction.

On Thursday, at more than 20 places, in a peaceful manner, we broke through the barricades raised by the Haryana and Delhi police; our march towards Delhi is progressing steadily and by this evening we will reach Delhi.

More than one thousand farmers have already reached Delhi on Thursday and staged protests at a number of places. Some 720 farmers were detained in Delhi at various stations and some were released late on Thursday night.

What will these two lakh farmers do when they reach Delhi?

Since last three months all the farmers organisations from India have been staging protests against the Modi government's three anti-farmers agriculture ordinances which were recently passed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and they became laws. We want all these three laws to be revoked immediately.

We will push the Modi government to immediately revoke the three anti-farmers' law, pass an MSP guarantee law and withdraw the proposed Electricity Bill, 2020.

We have sought permission from the Modi government to use the Ramlila Maidan and Jantar Mantar for peaceful protests against these three laws. We want to sit there in protest against these bills and we have come prepared with six months's rations.

We have been constantly agitating for revocation of these bills since August in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, but the Modi government is not listening to us. So now we are coming to Delhi to talk with the central government.

But the central government has said that those inciting farmers to protest don't have the benefit of farmers at heart and they are the agents of those who don't want farmers to benefit by selling their produce in the open market, outside the APMC-approved mandis?

The BJP government at the Centre and their leaders are the biggest dalals (agents) of the corporates.

They are saying that we (the farmers unions opposed to the three laws) want to protect the middlemen, the adatiyas, the bichauliyas; they can't see that we are just simple farmers who do not have anything to do with any middlemen.

Our demands are very simple: Repeal of the three anti-farmer laws; an MSP guarantee law; and revocation of the proposed Electricity Bill, 2020.

Does that make us farmers the agents of middlemen?

In 2011 when Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, he was also the president of the consumer affairs committee, and in his report in 2011, which was sent to then prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Modi himself proposed that there must be an MSP guarantee law for farmers.

What then has changed between his position in 2011 as the chief minister of Gujarat and in 2020 as the prime minister of India?

Today, he has changed his position so much so that he is not even willing to talk to farmers.

BJP leaders are labelling us as 'middlemen' and 'agents'. The reason for this change of heart is that this government has become dalals.

All the three laws and there being no MSP guarantee clause in the three laws is for the benefit of the Ambanis and Adanis.

These three agriculture laws are so systematically made that in the near future they will ensure the complete collapse of the APMCs (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) and the mandi system where the farmers are guaranteed a certain MSP.

How will the Ambanis and Adanis benefit because of the passage of the three agriculture laws? How will the APMC-approved mandia collapse?br>Aren't farmers free under these three laws to sell their agricultural produce to whoever and wherever at the best possible price?

This is complete hogwash propagated by BJP leaders, their loyalists from other political parties and their media henchmen.

Under the new law, the government has said that any merchant can purchase farmers's produce anywhere. Our only demand is that just insert one more line in this first law.

We would like the same law to have a clause that guarantees the purchase of farmers by these merchants at a price which is the MSP or at a price above the MSP.

We just want the law to insert this simple clause.

But what Modi and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar are saying in their speeches ad nauseum is that MSP will continue.

What we are saying is why not walk the talk? Why can't you have the inclusion of purchase of farmers' produce at or above MSP in the law?

Our country is run by laws made by Parliament and the Constitution. The country cannot be run only on the politicians's speeches.

Why can't you trust Modi on his assertion that MSP will continue and farmers will benefit from the three agriculture laws?

We cannot trust him because it's not just about Narendra Modi. This is about every politician in India.

In 2007, when the M S Swaminathan Commission came out with its report for farmers, neither the Congress (which was the ruling party between 2004 and 2014) nor the BJP (ruling at the Centre since 2014) had the guts to implement the recommendations of the commission.

Before 2014, Modiji's top promise was implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and MSP to farmers as per the C2 plus 50 per cent formula.

Strangely, in 2015, the Modi government gave a sworn affidavit in the Supreme Court that they cannot implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. And they have stood true to their word till 2020.

How, then, can we trust the prime minister?

He promised to give two crore jobs every year. But he hasn't given a single job. How can we trust him given his track record of reneging on his promises?

How will the Adanis and Ambanis benefit from the agriculture laws?

Under the APMC law it was mandatory that every sale of farmers's produce will take place at APMC mandis and at or above the MSP. But under the new law, there is no such clause and that's what makes the farmers suspicious about the intentions of this government and how it is helping the deep-pocket corporates.  

Under the old law it was necessary to have a mandi licence, which the new law has done away with. Now, under the new laws anybody without any licence can purchase farmers's produce without any legal obligation to purchase at or above the MSP.

Just so that the Ambanis and Adanis can enter the retail field for selling agricultural produce without any licence and make runaway profits, the Modi government made these laws. Under the old law it was compulsory for any buyer to have a licence.

This farmers's agitation seems to be led only by farmers from Punjab and Haryana. All-India participation seems to be missing.

This is yet another canard spread by this government and their media sycophants.

On Thursday more than 320 farmers from Tamil Nadu were arrested from the Mangala Express train. Delhi is too far away from the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. There are almost no trains running to Delhi from south India due to the pandemic.

Thousands of farmers marching towards Delhi from Madhya Pradesh were detained at various places. Some trains were purposely cancelled just to prevent farmers from coming to Delhi.

These difficulties are preventing farmers from central and south India to come to Delhi in large numbers.

How have the police from different states dealt with the farmers marching to Delhi?

Since yesterday (Thursday) the police from different states have been digging up roads to prevent the march of farmers.

They are stopping heavy vehicles midway, taking the keys from the drivers by force and asking them to leave their trucks on the road to act as roadblocks; they are liberally using water cannons and tear gas shells to disperse the farmers; they have been resorting to lathi charge at various places.

Despite these hurdles our farmers are marching towards Delhi in a very peaceful and Gandhian way. They are removing all the obstacles and marching towards the capital peacefully.