A day after BJP managed to push two contentious farm bills through the Parliament, which the Prime Minister described as a ‘landmark’ event in the country’s history, the farmers’ wing of the RSS, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) expressed unhappiness with the bills in a conversation with News18.
Mohini Mohan Mishra, the national secretary of the RSS affiliated farmers’ union, told News18 that there were valid concerns over the issue of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to the farmers and that BKS itself had raised the issue to the government.
“There is definitely an anger among farmers in Punjab and Haryana over these bills. We too had highlighted this issue before the government and asked for some changes to be made. We had in fact handed over a detailed note against some points of the bill, which was submitted to the government along with an endorsement by 50,000 farmers from across the country,” Mishra said.
While most of the unions of farmers and workers have called a shutdown on the 25th of this month, BKS has so far not actually joined the protests. Though, Mishra says that the concerns over MSP expressed by many farmers, union leaders and MPs, have really not been addressed in the two bills — Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 — that were passed in a controversial manner in Rajya Sabha on Sunday.
“Yes, MSP is definitely one of the issues that has not been addressed. We wanted the government to ensure that private companies don’t buy below the MSP,” Mishra said echoing the concerns raised by many leaders on the farm bills over the past two days.
“Even in the mandis sometimes farmers are not able to sell their produce at MSP. So what assurance is there that private contractors will buy farmers’ produce at MSP? Yes these things remain,” Mishra further said. Though, he added, that BKS does support the principle of having ‘One Nation One Market’ as was proposed by the Prime Minister and on which these farm bills have been based.
He said that BKS will for the moment wait and watch the developments and not step into the protests.
Meanwhile, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a collective of hundreds of farmers’ unions from across the country has called for a shutdown on the 25th. In a statement released on Monday, almost all the major national trade unions — INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC except the RSS affiliated BMS — have expressed their support to the shutdown call.
VM Singh, the national convenor of AIKSCC, said that 25th of this month will be commemorated as ‘Pratirodh Diwas’ or the day of resistance.
“I heard BJP leaders all day on Sunday saying that through these bills farmers will become happier and richer because they will be able to sell their produce anywhere and will not be “bound” like before. But tell me if that’s the case then why, after the Prime Minister announced the ‘One nation one market’ scheme, were the farmers not selling their maize crop above the MSP?” Singh wondered.
He said that the maize crop which came to the mandis in July-August could have been sold by farmers under the new scheme for major gains, but that’s not what happened. “Farmers ended up selling their maize crop for Rs 600-Rs 1,000, the same crop that’s now being distributed by middlemen for Rs 2,000. So, the government’s arguments about farmers being ‘unshackled’ by these bills is plainly misleading,” Singh said.
He added that even the verbal assurances that the senior BJP leader and Defence Minister had made, in an effort to placate farmers through his press conference on Sunday, was not going to help assuage the anger of the farmers.
“How can we believe the government now. They said we will give MSP according to MS Swaminathan commission’s formula. But instead of giving us MSP at C2+50, which is what the commission had proposed, the government defined MSP at A2+50. The government said sugarcane dues of farmers will be paid in 14 days, before the elections. Eight months have passed and the dues have only mounted further. Tell me on what basis will the farmer accept a union minister’s verbal assurances?” Singh said.
While protests are going on over several other issues in many other states, such as in UP and Rajasthan over non-payment of sugarcane dues, those happening in Punjab and Haryana are happening with greater vigour because most of the farmer who are beneficiaries of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) come from these two states.