NewDelhi/Nagpur: “Aaj kisan aur mazdoor dono bahut dare hue hain” (The farmers and labour force both are both running scared today ) are the fighting words Rahul Gandhi, Vice President of Congress began his speech at the historic Ramlila maidan today.
He followed that up by deriding Modi’s statement made abroad that ” he was cleaning up garbage of 50 years in India”. Rahul said such statements are not in good taste coming from a big political leader when on foreign soil and especially so when that person was PM of the country. It was an insult to all Indians and everything they had achieved so far.
By all standards it was effective rhetoric and a good speech from Rahul. As expected, it was all about the new Land acquisition Bill that the Modi Government has enforced by way of two Ordinances and will now try to get passed in the Rajya Sabha as soon as it convened for the new session tomorrow.
Rahul alleged that the 2013 bill that was brought in after a lot of deliberations with farmers’ groups, NGOs and other politicians took care of farmers interests in many ways. His consent was required , unless 80% land owners did not permit it land could not be acquired. Social Impact assessment was necessary.
“And the biggest clause we had incorporated was an audit that was to be completed within 6 months of what effect losing land was having on local population. If they were not being given compensation as per law, officers would be punished.” Recalled Rahul about the 2013 bill. He also said that increasing compensation 4 times for farmers was a decision of UPA government.
” But the new Bill proposes to remove all these points beneficial for farmer. It also wants to remove the provision that if no activity is begun on the acquired land for 5 years it should be given back to farmers. Why has this been removed?”
Rahul said farmers are in dire straits this year. Prices of all his produce have fallen drastically.
“Potato has fallen by 80%, paddy 30% and cotton 25%. We on the other hand, during our tenure had increased Wheat prices from Rs. 540 to 1400; Paddy from Rs. 560/ to Rs. 1310/ and a commensurate rise in sugar too. What has this government done so far? It has only weakened the farmer by removing subsidy on Urea, creating a shortage so that it is sold in black now and not offering MSP either. The strategy is to weaken the farmer and then take away his land so that industrialists can bring their mega projects there.”
He openly accused Modi of having taken crores and crores from industrialists to run his expensive advertising campaigns before general elections last year.
“Time has come to repay all that money now. So he wants to sacrifice your interests by grabbing your land without your consent even”.
He compared the situation in India now to what he had seen at a Diamond mine in Australia some years ago. It is the biggest and richest diamond mine in the world and produces 25% of the world’s diamonds. When Rahul asked about who the land had belonged to before being acquired for diamond mining, he was told 300 families had lived there. He asked to meet them, expecting they would be very well dressed and would arrive in limousines and big cars – except he got to meet some labour and lowly employees working in the mines, who had been “trained” for their new jobs after losing their lands.
Is this what is going to happen here also? Rahul asked.
He cited examples where he had stood and fought with farmers in various places like Niyamgiri in Odisha and Bhata Parsaul in Haryana where farmers were under siege when they did not want to relinquish their lands and he had participated in their struggle to save their land.
“We may not be in power, but we are not weak or down. Whenever your interests are threatened or injustice is being done to you, you shall find Congress workers with you, you shall find our senior leaders, you shall find me” promised Rahul.
Sonia Gandhi, Congress President spoke after him and thanked the farmers for coming in large numbers to attend the rally despite it being their harvesting season. She also assured farmers that Congress would not let them suffer and would guard their rights.
A,K. Antony, who had organized the whole event, Man Mohan Singh former PM and Ajay Makan also addressed the rally though the high point was Rahul Gandhi’s speech.
The turn out at the rally was very impressive and observers reported that it easily surpassed any rally held in the past year at this venue with turnout at this one being double.
There were some instances of verbal clashes between two groups, specially from the Haryana contingent and some cases of people having imbibed alcohol too. But then, that media people opined is what one has begun to expect from large rallies in the capital.