Politicians' visits to mandis a publicity stunt?

  • Rameshinder Singh Sandhu, Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
  • Updated: May 01, 2015 10:02 IST

Amid wheat procurement process, political leaders of opposition in large numbers can be seen along with their supporters thronging the mandis or grain markets, leaving no stone unturned to meet the distressed farmers, check their grain quality, criticise the state government and above all, never forget the photo opportunity, which by evening hours get shared by them on their respective social networking platforms.

While some farmers feel their visits can keep the state government pressurised to take decisions in favour of farmers but majority of the agriculturalists, leaders of farmers associations from various pockets of the state and even the Punjab Mandi Board (PMB) feel these visits are only being used to win sympathy from the farmers and grab the media limelight. They also feel that the politicians' visit is also creating hurdles in the procurement process, which is already under pressure.

Buta Singh Burjgill, state president of Bharat Kisan Union (BKS), terms all these visits a drama. "Why do the leaders in opposition always wake up when it is too late? For now, just coming to the mandis with a big team of supporters to meet the farmers and get pictures clicked can't help the farmers. These leaders should keep in mind that farmers have started understanding such publicity tricks,"said Burjgill.

PPS Pangli, chairman of the United Farmers Empowerment Initiative (UFEI) and president of Punjab Agricultural University's Kisan Club said, "In some of the mandis, they remind of a busy airport where one flight departs and other lands. They promote themselves.

Punjab Mandi Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said such visits are further slowing down the procurement process and are proving stressful for the officials at different mandis. "The moment they come, all the farmers, labourers and even officials get captivated to them. They involve them in long interactive sessions which disrupt the entire working process. They never ask Punjab Mandi Board as to how they can help it,"shared Lakhowal, adding that their large fleet of cars also disrupts traffic.

Minister of agriculture and NRI affairs Tota Singh agrees with the views of Lakhowal. He says, "These leaders are no way guiding or counseling the farmers in a positive manner. They just try to provoke them against the government which is trying its best to sort out all the issues. If wheat quality and yield has declined, it is due to the inclement weather which can't be controlled by human beings. If they really want to help farmers, they should join hands with the state government to ask the Centre to extend all possible help when it comes to compensation. Do not boil the issue or throw salt on farmers' wounds,"said Singh.

Meanwhile, on social networking sites, where pictures of mandi visits have gained popularity, have got both positive and negative comments. Interestingly, in some pictures supporters can be seen giving perfect poses for the photos and many pushing each other to make place in the picture. Some of them have also captioned the pictures- 'listening to farmers problems'.

When contacted, leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar said, "The state government must keep in mind that it is duty of the opposition to underline its mismanagement and the concerns bothering the citizens. Rather than blaming our leaders with silly remarks, why can't they accept that their entire administration has failed. During Captain Amrinder-led Congress governance, farmers never faced such problems. The present government leaders under Badal are playing with the system for their personal benefits. We often wonder on what basis the Badal government has been conferred with the 'best government award' by PM. It's highly unjustified."

Jakhar said if the opposition leaders don't visit the mandis, the state government will get freedom to ruin the lives of the farmers. "If Badal has announced Rs 4,000 crore for the procurement process, it is only due to our pressure. Opposition always speaks against the wrong. We hope Badal will release the said amount as actions speak louder than words."

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