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It took Shivraj govt 12 years, 6 deaths to decide on agri-evaluation commission

Doubts linger, mostly because the state government is yet to fulfill many promises made to farmers in the 2013 assembly election manifesto. Also, farmer groups don’t seem impressed by the chief minister’s indefinite fast.

bhopal Updated: Jun 19, 2017 08:29 IST
Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Farmers agitation,Shivraj Singh Chouhan,Agriculture
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan addresses farmers during a rally in Bhopal on Saturday. (AFP photo)

Shivraj Singh Chouhan took the reins of Madhya Pradesh in November 2005, holding it in a vice-like grip that no opposition party could unclench. And yet, it was only after 12 years – and the death of six farmers in an agitation borne out of utter desperation – that he even considered constituting a commission to assuage the feelings of a community vital for his political survival.

While details of the promised panel – meant for assessing the input costs of agricultural produce – are yet to be disclosed, sources say it would possibly fulfill an advisory function in helping the government decide the minimum support price for agricultural produce.

Five of the six farmers who lost their lives in the agitation were killed in police firing on Tuesday. The sixth victim, who was struck on the head with a baton, succumbed in a hospital three days later. Today, Mandsaur – the epicentre of the agitation that began on June 1 – finally seems to be calming down.

Aware of the anger against his government, Chouhan launched an indefinite fast for “restoring peace in the state” on Saturday. It was then that he announced the formation of the panel.

But doubts linger, mostly because the state government is yet to fulfill many promises made to farmers in the 2013 assembly election manifesto. These include the constitution of a loan relief commission, provident fund scheme for farmers, cattle ambulances, agro-polytechnic colleges, distribution of land among the landless, loan advisory centres, and a regulatory authority to compensate for substandard seeds, among others.

The farmers’ agitation has brought the Madhya Pradesh government under the scanner, with detractors questioning the rosy agricultural picture Chouhan had been painting for many years now. And this time, it’s not just state opposition leader Ajay Singh who has dubbed the chief minister’s fast as a “drama”.

Madhya Pradesh Patidar Samaj president Mahendra Patidar said Chouhan goes on a fast whenever his government faces a challenge from the electorally significant farmer community. This is the fourth time he has put on such an act, he pointed out.

Mahesh Patidar, president of the Patidar Samaj in Neemuch, also expressed a similar sentiment. “I don’t think the chief minister can solve farmers’ problems by fasting. It can be done only through government decisions. This is just a ploy to divert the media’s attention from the agitation,” he said.

Shivkant Dixit, general secretary of the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, said the announcements made during Chouhan’s fast were already decided during their meeting with him. “It is for the government to decide on the measures required to restore peace in the state.”

First Published: Jun 10, 2017 19:15 IST