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'Farmers will wipe out the BJP in elections'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
October 07, 2020 10:31 IST
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'They will not get more than two seats in Haryana if elections are held now.'

IMAGE: Farmers block railway tracks during their ongoing agitation against the new farm laws at Devi Dass Pura village near Amritsar. Photograph: PTI Photo
 

In a setback to the Bharatiya Janata Party in Haryana, its former MLA from the Radaur assembly seat, Shyam Singh Rana left the party, alleging neglect of farmers in the state.

Announcing his resignation, Rana said he left the party because he could no longer bear to see the farmers's misery.

In his resignation letter, Rana said keeping in view the problems faced by the farmers, 'I support them and resign from all the posts I hold and also resign from the party.'

His decision to quit the BJP has come at a time when Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders are protesting against the farm laws in Haryana and Punjab.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com spoke to Rana to understand why he quit the BJP and why he believes the recently enacted farm laws are bad for farmers.

You quit the BJP over the issue of farm laws. Why?

These bills will finish off the mandi system in Punjab and Haryana, which will eventually wipe out small farmers.

India has the maximum number of farmers in the world and they are all small farmers.

They are not the ones who can contact these corporate groups and do business.

At best, they can go to local mandis to sell their product. They don’t move out of their kasba (local area).

Now take an example of the rice crop. It is only the rice mills that will buy rice from these farmers. Tata or Birla group will not buy rice from small farmers.

The government has said these laws have been brought in to eliminate middlemen at mandis so that farmers can sell their goods directly to corporate houses or to whomever they want.

This is the problem with people who don't understand farmers' issues. People sitting in mandis are not dalals and now they have got irritated because wrong information has been spread about them.

In a mandi, there are 200 shops and they are being called as middlemen. There are thousands of shops in mandis. The budget of these mandis is so huge -- it is bigger than the Haryana government's budget.

Now these people who are in mandis, farmers are dependent on them for various necessities of life. Be it buying seeds, marriage in the family or health issues. No bank will come and give money to farmers and it is these people who help farmers in their need.

And they exploit farmers and they are dalals. That is what we know about them, isn't it?

People who do not know the ABC of farming are saying the farm laws are good.

These people are not middlemen, but sahayaks (helpers) of farmers.

Mahatma Gandhi once said you can only discuss an issue with a person who knows that issue. The problem is the BJP spokesperson sitting and discussing this issue on TV shows parrots the words that the Centre tells them.

Dushyant Chautala, who is part of the Haryana government, is also supporting the farm laws.

He has studied in America where only 3 per cent of the people are farmers. In India, we are 70 per cent and in one village there are thousands of farmers.

You cannot apply American rules of farming in India. It will not work.

The unemployment problem can be solved by farming.

Each year we have a considerable number of farmer suicides, which is a genuine problem. Farmers need such a law, don't you think so?

It is an irony that this bill was brought in by Dr Manmohan Singh during Congress rule and the late BJP leader, Sushma Swaraj, opposed the bill. Now the goalposts have shifted.

The Congress is opposing the bill and the BJP has brought in the bill.

This is happening because farmers are not a part of both the parties. These parties don't understand their problems so the poor farmer has no other option left than to die by suicide.

What then should be done to improve the condition of farmers?

The system which runs should run as it is and you cannot change it overnight 100 per cent.

Take Bihar. Farmers in that state get Rs 1,200 per quintal for paddy whereas in Haryana, where the mandi system exists, farmers get Rs 1,800 per quintal.

Farmers of Bihar are losing Rs 600 per quintal on paddy because their government is not supporting the farmers.

After this bill was passed, the farmers will not get MSP also for their farm produce.

So, what are these farmers doing? Bihar's farmers come to work as labourers in Haryana.

But even before this law farmers never got MSP for their produce. Is that not true?

Once the government buys farm produce from mandis, then the price is fixed.

Farmers will get that price for sure, but the only condition is that the government must buy their produce first. And in this farm bill there was no mention of MSP.

Just now six rabi crops were given MSP by the Modi government.

That is okay, but why did they not give in writing about MSP in the farm bill? They could have written two lines. If that was done, then there would have been no protest.

But only 6 per cent of farmers get MSP, is that not true? And that, too, only big farmers get MSP?

Be it a big farmer or a small farmer they all must know what should be the Minimum Support Price of their farm produce and get MSP.

In Haryana, the biggest farmer does not hold more than 8 hectares of land.

Will the BJP suffer at elections because of these farm laws?

Farmers will wipe out the BJP in the elections. They will not get more than two seats in Haryana if elections are held now. I am a rural man and I know the ground realities.

Don't you think corporates buying farm produce directly from farmers will be good for them?

Big companies are already shutting shop and running away from India. And even if they are coming to the farm sector, where will they hunt for small farmers' produce? Do you expect them to go to every nook and corner of villages and do business deals?

The worst part of this farm law is the arbitration.

Farmers cannot go to courts and only the sub-divisional magistrate can decide the fate and that is his final authority.

Take sugarcane payment. We do contract farming with sugar mills and in 14 days farmers have to get payment in their account, all contracts say that and everything is in written down. But we never get it and finally the matter gets resolved from courts.

But in this new bill you cannot even go to the court. This is contract farming, the new farm law speaks about. In Uttar Pradesh, years pass ,but farmers never get their due for sugarcane.

Is that the reason you are quitting the BJP?

I am a farmer and I understand their problem. So, I am with them.

What future do you foresee?

Right now, farmer leaders in BJP are expecting that there can be some amendment in the farm law.

And right now, we have no idea what is the future and whether corporates will come and hunt small farmers for their farm produce?

Moreover, no one knows where these company headquarters will be located and how will farmers work with them.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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