RSS affiliates to back govt, but keep up pressure on support for farm sector
As the BJP gears up to seek a fresh mandate, affiliates such as Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) are publicising the demands met by the government.india Updated: Oct 12, 2018 07:50 IST
Affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have started to tone down their criticism of government’s economic and labour policies in the run up to assembly elections in five states and the Lok Sabha polls next year, but will keep up the pressure for more support for the farm sector and medium and small scale enterprises, according to functionaries aware of the developments.
As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gears up to seek a fresh mandate, affiliates such as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) are publicising the demands met by the government. Senior functionaries of these groups said that while there has been a “noticeable” improvement in certain areas, the government needs to cover more ground on some fronts.
“There is an understanding (within the Sangh) that while the government prepares for polls, affiliates must help raise awareness about the achievements and positive developments. Therefore, going forward, there may not be protests or strong criticism,” said a senior RSS functionary who asked not to be named.
Differences between the government and the Sangh affiliates have hinged on issues such as low wages and lack of social security for the unorganised sector, low procurement rates for farm produce, and allowing foreign direct investment in critical sectors such as defence, food processing and pharmaceuticals.
The BKS, which praised the announcement for increasing the minimum support price for certain products, wants the government to ensure that the promise is fulfilled on the ground. It had earlier criticised the government for failing to find a solution to the farm crisis and cautioned that the impact of farmers’ unrest seen in the Gujarat assembly polls could be repeated in states such as Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
“More than 50-55% of the population is dependent on the agriculture sector in one way or the other, but in all these 60-70 years, it never emerged as centralised issue. It is only now that farmers are actually being talked about. The finance minister [Arun Jaitley] actually dedicated a large chunk of this budget speech to this sector,” said Prabhakar Kelkar, general secretary of the BKS.
But the BKS, he said, will not let up the pressure since it wants the government to ensure that better procurement rates are given to small and marginal farmers as well. “The government should ensure that buying at increased Minimum Support Price (MSP) is actually happening. Otherwise, by merely announcing sops such as loan and tariff waivers, they will make farmers corrupt and unable to be self-sufficient,” he said.
Another affiliate, the BMS, which pitched itself in an adversarial position after the small and medium enterprises sector reported losses following the demonetisation of R500 and R1,000 currency notes, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi twice in the last month to show gratitude for increasing the remuneration for Accredited Social Health Activist (Asha) and Anganwadi workers.
BMS said the decision to double the remuneration of these working groups and brining all ASHA?workers under the ambit of various social security schemes such as free insurance cover under Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Prime Minister Suraksha Bima Yojana, was its long-standing demand met by the government.
But BMS, too, has long list of demands for the government to fulfil.
“Social security schemes such as Aayushman Bharat should cover all, and there should be a pension scheme. The pending [in Parliament] universal social security code and the wage code need to be passed. The government also needs to increase tax collection so that social security schemes can be extended to a larger population, and there has to be regulation of the contractual employment sector,” said Vrijesh Upadhyay, general secretary of BMS.
SJM, which was the most vocal critic of the government’s decision to fill key positions at federal think tank NITI Aayog and the Reserve Bank of India by recruiting from abroad, wants the government to focus on correcting trade imbalance and cut down dependence on foreign investment.
Its national convener Ashwani Mahajan said the government must ensure that fall of the rupee is arrested and, to do so, must take urgent steps to cut down on imports.
“The government did take the necessary steps to impose anti-dumping duties, ensure standards. But there is a need to wean away from a policy that predominantly rests on imports. The government must look at protectionist measures whereby a certain minimum procurement has to be from domestic production units,” he said.
Professor of political science in Jawharlal Nehru University, Ajay Gudavarthi, however, said the issues raised by these affiliates is only posturing. “They are no longer serious about issues such as global capital (being invested in India). There has been no serious intervention from their side on such issues. What the affiliates do is that they occupy all spaces, so that they can attract people to join them,” he said.
First Published: Oct 12, 2018 07:34 IST