The state government has roped in Kishor Tiwari, prominent farm activist known to be a harsh critic of the government, to head a mission to reduce farm distress and arrest the trend of suicides in 14 districts of the state.
Yet to be officially named, the mission will be headquartered in Amravati with Tiwari as its director supported by staff, including a Joint Director (Agriculture), Joint Registrar (Co-operatives) and Deputy Commissioner (Civil Supplies).
The government has decided to confer executive power on Tiwari with a secretary-level status likely for him. The 14 districts include six from western Vidarbha and eight from Marathwada.
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Tiwari’s name was announced immediately after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ marathon speech on the state’s agrarian distress in the Assembly earlier this week. Tiwari has accepted the assignment but the terms of reference will be conveyed to him next week when he meets CM on Wednesday.
“What is the point in continuing confrontation when the government is ready to talk about and address the issue,” Tiwari told The Sunday Express.
With his campaign through national and international media, Tiwari has been highlighting agrarian distress in Vidarbha aggressively through his organisation Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) from Pandharkawda in Yavatmal district. His press notes dispatched with unfailing regularity about suicide incidents were frequently being used by the media.
“The CM referred to food, health and overall economic security for the farmers in his speech, something which I have all through been highlighting. If he has shown faith in him, I don’t want to remain an activist in isolation and will carry out the task given within the limitations of resources that are available with the government. It must also be seen how far the government can work with activists,” Tiwari said.
Tiwari, who has been strong critic of Bt cotton, and has held the technology responsible for agrarian distress, however, struck a different note, saying, “There should be no blind opposition to technology. Agrarian crisis is an integrated failure of various problems. Farmers have made Bt technology their choice in toto. So where do we activists stand in this regard now? But we must search for sustainable ways in dryland agriculture. There should be flexibility, no orthodoxy in technology matters.”
Tiwari, 56, who started out as ABVP activist in his youth, holds a master’s degree in engineering. Asked what will be his stand on 50 per cent more than production cost as minimum support price (MSP) for farm produce, Tiwari said, “Without that there can be no economic security to farmers. Production may have increased, but if the farmer doesn’t get returns, what is the use? On policy matters, I will be firm on my beliefs and will continue to use perception and persuasion to press them. All I need are the right terms of reference.”
Asked if VJAS will continue to agitate, Tiwari said, “We are working on many public issues on right to food and tribal issues. We will continue to do that and will operate with constructive approach on all issues, including farm distress.”
Another prominent farm activist Vijay Javandhiya said, “I congratulate Tiwari and wish him the best but major agriculture-related decisions rest with the Centre, so it remains to be seen how far he can get in solving the farmers’ problems. I have doubts given the kind of utterances coming from Union Agriculture Minister on sensitive issues like agrarian suicides.”