Farmers, who have been undergoing a tough lockdown given the initial confusion over their movement, the untimely rains and hailstorms, on Friday said that they were expecting more from Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's announcements on the third day.
In her third phase of announcements, Sitharaman announced a package of Rs 1 lakh crore for funding agriculture infrastructure projects at farm-gate and aggregation points. The program also included several measures for other allied activities such as dairy, animal husbandry and fisheries as the government looks to strengthen the agriculture sector.
Shivkumar Sharma 'Kakkaji', convener of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdur Sangh (RKMS), said that while the farmers were dying under crushing loans and interests, the Centre was trying to burden them with more loans.
The finance minister's policies were quite favourable for industries but nothing has been announced for us, he said.
"We have repeatedly asked the government to give us Minimum Support Price (MSP) as per Swaminathan commission's formula. The farmer wouldn't have been in the position he is in today had he been getting appropriate compensation for his produce. Instead of waiving off the earlier loans, the government is announcing grand policy decisions that won't help us right now," he added.
VM Singh, the national convenor of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), also said that the finance minister had announced policy decisions rather than announcing specific relief packages.
"The policy measures announced by the finance minister will have an impact on farmers' lives maybe a year down the line. But what has he got right now? Even in the broad policy decisions there's no clarity. They’re talking about ‘one market one nation’ but they don’t tell us who will determine market rates. Vegetables, fruits, milk that has been destroyed over the past few weeks due to untimely rain, hailstorms, long waiting periods, where is the compensation for that," asked Singh.
He said that when the industries came under pressure and began registering losses, the government came to its rescue. But, he added, the farmer who has been running an almost unprofitable business, and has been put under further stress during the last 50 days of Covid-19-induced lockdown, has no help from the government.
"Old loans should have been written off and fresh loans at nominal rates should have been extended to farmers. If you could write off over Rs 68,000 crore for the industrialists, why can you not do this for farmers who are risking their lives to provide you food in this time of emergency?" he added.
Rahul Raj, a farmer from Madhya Pradesh, and state president of Rashtriya Kisaan Mazduur Sangathan, said that what will the government's grand gestures bring to the farmers, who have not yet been paid their previous dues by the government.
"When the dues of the previous crop that the government bought is already pending, when banks have begun recovering their pending loans from farmers, what will these grand gestures mean for the ordinary farmer? Madhya Pradesh was one state which did quite well in vegetables, where the price of onion never fell below Rs 8 per kg. This season farmers have sold it for Rs 150 per quintal," he said.
He said that the farmers were expecting compensation from the government.
Some amount per hectare could have been fixed for the farmers who incurred losses last year as well as this year due to due to untimely rains and hailstorms that destroyed many crops. It is unfortunate that the Union Agriculture Minister belongs to Madhya Pradesh but is not paying attention to the state of his own farmers, he added.