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After 11 days of protest, Rajasthan government finally meets farmers to discuss their 11 demands

The Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha, the farmer organisation of the CPM, has been leading the agitation.

jaipur Updated: Sep 12, 2017 21:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha,Farmers agitation,Swaminathan commission
Police deployed as farmer protest during their Mahapadav (sit-in) demanding implementation of Swaminathan Commission Report in Bikaner, Rajasthan on Monday. (PTI)

Under siege from thousands of farmers —who are out on the streets in north Rajasthan demanding crop loan waiver — and the opposition parties, the BJP government finally held talks to resolve the agitation on Tuesday.

The Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha, the farmer organisation of the CPM, has been leading the agitation, which has been going on for the last 11 days is Sikar.

The farmers have 11 demands, including crop loan waiver, purchase of crops at minimum support price (MSP), increasing farmers’ pension from ₹500 to ₹5,000, tackling the menace of stray cattle, removing the ban on the sale of cattle imposed by the state government and implementation of the Swaminathan commission recommendations.

“We have been protesting for last 10 days, but the government is not serious about resolving the issues. We will call for a statewide chakka jam if the government does not concede to our demands,” former CPI(M) MLA Amraram, who is leading the stir, said.

Farmers are incurring losses and debts as the state government is not buying crops at MSP, Amraram said. The agriculture loan in the state amounts to ₹49,500 crore.

However, economists argue against loan waivers. Prof VS Vyas, a former member of the prime minister’s advisory council, said that loan waivers are not in the long-term interest of farmers.

“It can be a short-term remedy but in the long-term it can create hurdles in getting loans from banks and farmers will be forced to go back to sahukars and money-lenders,” he said.

While talking about the states’ failure to implement MSP, Vyas blamed the ineffective procurement agencies. “The procurement agencies are supposed to buy from farmers at the MSP but they are ineffective, which forces farmers to sell at lower prices to private traders.”

But almost every time politics trounces economics.

Almost 70% people in Rajasthan are engaged in agriculture and farmers constitute a crucial vote bank. Assembly elections are due next year and the farmer organisations sense an opportunity in rallying against the government.

The opposition is also supporting the farmers’ demand for crop loan waiver. Terming the BJP government anti-farmer, state Congress president Sachin Pilot has said the party will hold protests in all the districts to seek loan waiver.

National People’s Party state president Kirori Lal Meena and independent MLA Hanuman Beniwal too have backed the farmers’ demands.

Apart from MSP, this year up to 80% of the crops in parts of Rajasthan has been destroyed by unseasonal rain and farmers have been demanding compensation, but the government has not responded so far, said Rampal Jat, national president of the Kisan Mahapanchayat. He said that the organisation wants freedom from loans and not loan waiver.

In March this year, rains destroyed crops in large parts of Rajasthan. In August, Jalore, Sirohi, Barmer and Pali districts received heavy rainfall that led to crop loss.

The government assessed that 8.34 hectare land had been affected by the rains in August and assessed crop loss to the tune of ₹156.3 crore. The disaster relief department had sent a memo to the centre seeking relief. But farmers claim that they have not received any compensation.

Rampal Jat said that the government fixes the MSP but at the mandis, where the crops are auctioned, private traders buy them at a lesser price. “We want the government to amend the law to ensure that the auction starts from the MSP and not from lower rates.”

The Kisan Mahapanchayat has rallied farmers from the Ajmer region, where pulses are grown, for an agitation at Dudu. Jat cited the instance of moong dal. The MSP is ₹5,575 per quintal while the cost of production is ₹5,700 per quintal. However, it was sold at ₹3,500 per quintal.

Jat said that the government has time and again assured the farmers that the issue will be resolved but nothing has done so far.

First Published: Sep 12, 2017 21:09 IST