A defiant Bharatiya Janata Party veteran leader Yashwant Sinha, who was detained in Akola on Monday while leading a protest by farmers, vowed not to move out of the place where he spent the night till demands of cultivators of Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region are accepted.
The former Union minister, who has had frequent run-inswith the current BJP leadership, was detained on Monday evening while protesting against the state government’s “apathy” towards the farmers of Vidarbha. He was taken to the district police headquarters and later released.
However, the 80-year-old leader refused to leave and sat on a dharna at the police ground, where he spent the night. He said he will not budge from the venue till all demands raised by farmers are met.
“The district administration held talks with us till late last night but didn’t accept our demands. We won’t budge from this venue till demands of farmers are met,” Sinha told reporters.
The former Union finance minister said the government does not appear serious about solving problems being faced by agriculturists.
“I feel the attitude of the administration and the government towards farmers woes isn’t serious. We are not a thing to be ridiculed, to be made fun of.”
Sinha said he spoke to several local and national leaders about issues related to cultivators.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s media advisor Harshal Pradhan said that Thackeray and Sinha spoke on the phone on Tuesday and discussed farmers’ issues.
Sinha said there has been no communication with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over half-a-dozen demands of farmers.
There were reports that Sinha had a telephonic conversation with Nationalist Congress Party chief and former Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.
The district administration, however, claimed a majority of the demands raised by farmers have been accepted.
Akola Collector Astik Pandey said the authorities concerned have accepted six of the seven demands and requested the agitators to call off the protest.
The demands include compensation to cotton farmers for losses incurred due to pink bollworm infestation, action against companies manufacturing “bogus” biotechnologically modified seeds and 100 per cent payout for crop losses to moong, udid and soyabean farmers. They are also demanding that bank officials and administration execute loan waivers by personally visiting gram panchayats.
The other demands are uninterrupted power supply to agricultural pump sets, removal of “unjust” conditions from the gold mortgage waiver scheme of the government for farmers, and purchase of all farm produce at MSP by National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India.
“Except for the last one (related to MSP), which is a call to be taken by the Central government, we have accepted all six demands and have requested the protesters led by Sinha to call off their stir,” Pandey said.
Sinha said the “excuse” about NAFED purchase is not valid as the BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have been procuring farm produce through their own systems.
“Why can’t the Maharashtra government (led by the BJP) then do it?” the bureaucrat-turned-politician asked.
Sinha, who arrived in Vidarbha three days ago to participate in the Kapus Soyabean Dhan (cotton, soyabean, paddy) Parishad, was detained, along with farmers, by police near the collectorate.
Officials said after the detention of Sinha and 150-odd farmers on Monday, they were told around 9:30 pm that they were free and can go.
Since they decided to stay put, they were provided food, water, blankets and toilet facilities at the protest venue, Akola SP M Rajesh Kalasagar said.
Addressing farmers at ‘Kapus Soyabean Dhan Parishad’ organised by Shetkari Jagar Manch on Sunday, Sinha had accused the BJP of reneging on promises made to farmers.
“Before coming to power, the BJP had promised to give 50 per cent over and above the minimum support price (MSP). But after coming to power, the party forgot the promise.
“Just as Indian soldiers carried out surgical strikes across border, farmers will also carry out a surgical strike against the government to get justice,” Sinha had said.