The success of the farmers’ long march in Maharashtra has alarmed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s farmers’ wing Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). The BKS is campaigning among peasants warning them against what it believes are “protests for short term gains”.
Maintaining that loan waiver will only compound the prevalent agrarian distress in the country, the BKS is also engaging with the Centre government for adopting a price deficit finance scheme to ensure adequate remuneration for the farmers.
The historic long march under the aegis of CPI-M-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) saw tens of thousands of farmers, tribals and labourers undertake a grueling 200 km long march from Nashik to Mumbai to press for their various demands including implementation of the loan waiver scheme announced last year and implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
The massive agitation that caught the imagination of the entire nation and support of various opposition parties, led to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis agreeing to almost all their demands.
Subsequent to the Maharashtra march, the Bharatiya Kisan Union spearheaded a similar protest in the national capital seeking loan waiver on March 13 while the AIKS organised a “Kisan Pratirodh Rally” in Lucknow on March 15 in protest against the “betrayal of farmers” by the Modi government at the Centre and the Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh.
The AIKS along with several other peasant fronts has also called a two-day national convention beginning March 20 in the national capital, on agrarian crisis, assault on cattle economy and lynching of Dalits and minorities.
The theme of the convention relates to the “growth of communal polarisation, Hindutva agendas and the violence of the majorities over the minorities and crisis in agriculture”.
The convention will be represented by the AIKS, All India Kisan Mahasabha, Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Khet Mazdoor Sangathan, National Alliance of People’s Movements, All India Agriculture Workers Union, social activists, politicians, academics among others.
Calling the protests “politically motivated”, BKS national organisational secretary Dinesh Kulkarni said farm loan waiver was not the solution to the agrarian distress, rather it would only compound the misery.
“Loan waiver helps the rich farmers who take loans from the government and cooperative banks rather than small and marginal farmers, who are mostly dependent on local moneylenders and private players,” Kulkarni said.
“Besides emboldening the tendency of defaulting, such waivers further burden banks and rob the government of funds which can be utilised for strengthening the agricultural infrastructure. Waivers neither help the farmers nor the economy. So why to allow the tendency of seeking loan waiver to grow?” aruged Kulkarni.
“There is no doubt that farmers are facing problems but the solution doesn’t lie in loan waivers,” he said, adding that state governments might be tempted to agree to the demands of loan waiver in view of the next Lok Sabha elections.
He said the key to address the growing farmers issues lay in having a system to ensure adequate remuneration for farmers and developing agricultural infrastructure, including irrigation facilities.
The BKS advocates nationally adopting the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana or the price deficit finance scheme introduced by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh.
Under the scheme, the state government pays the farmers the difference between the average prices in major markets and minimum support prices (MSPs) for the kharif crops, on account of farmers being unable to fetch the MSP.
While the BKS has been pressing the Modi government to adopt the BBY, finance minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget this year announced that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for notified kharif crops would be 1.5 times of the cost incurred by farmers for production.
However, the decision has been mired in controversy following questions as to what really constitutes the ‘cost of production’.
Opposition parties and farmers unions have panned the announcement calling it a “Jumla” (false promise).
Kulkarni said the BKS will hold talks with government think tank NITI Aayog over the confusion regarding the MSP announcement in the Union Budget and also press for its demand of a price deficit finance scheme on the lines of BBY.
The BKS will hold its national executive in Varanasi from April-7-8 where it will chalk out its future course of action.