The All India Farm Policy Coordination Committee — a group of farmers’ associations in the country — has distanced itself from the ‘padyatra’ (foot march) planned by social activist Anna Hazare to resist the land acquisition bill, saying Hazare’s vision is limited to the well being of only “3 per cent farmers who actually own land”. They said Hazare was ignoring other equally pressing issues faced by farmers and farm labourers.
The committee held a three-day ‘Kisan Convention’ in Wardha from March 8-10 — around the same time when Hazare and other activists met there (on March 9) to chalk out a detailed plan of the 1,100-km march from Wardha to Delhi.
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The convention organised by the AIFPCC was attended by several prominent farmers’ leaders, including Lingraj Azad, Bhavini Parekh, Rakesh Tikait, Vijay Jawandhiya, Medha Patkar and Yogendra Yadav. While the meeting headed by Hazare was attended by Rajendra Singh, Akhil Gogoi, Amarnath, Dr Sunilam and Vishwambhar Choudhary and former RSS ideologue Govindacharya among others. Activist Medha Patkar attended the Hazare meeting too.
According to those who participated in the meets, while AAP’s Yogendra Yadav wanted to attend the Hazare meeting, the latter opposed it citing his political affiliation.
Jawandhiya, a prominent member of the AIFPCC, said though there were efforts on part of the Hazare camp to take the support of AIFPCC to their agitation, it was opposed by the committee due to difference of opinion over the singular objective of the protest.
“We want a holistic movement to oppose a number of anti-farmer policies of the Modi government, which are affecting the farmers and farm labourers. There are issues such as fixing justifiable prices to farm commodities, subsidies, export policy and policy on genetically modified crops, which need urgent consideration. But Anna’s agitation is focusing only on the land acquisition bill. While there is no doubt that the bill is unjust, it isn’t the biggest problem that is affecting the farmers’ community today. Of the total people involved in farming, only 3 per cent are land owners,” said Jawandhiya.
He said while they tried to bring this point home with the Hazare camp — with Patkar acting as mediator — an understanding could not be reached. “After deliberations, the Hazare camp was ready to include other pertinent issues in the agitation agenda. However, while we are sure they would include our concerns in the agenda, these will be put on the backburner and the land bill will remain in the forefront. Thus, there is no point in being a part of the agitation, which ignores the real issue. I think Mr Hazare should rename the ‘farmers’ agitation’ to ‘land owners’ agitation’,” said Jawandhiya.
AIPFCC is planning a separate agitation against the “anti-farmer policies” and to press the government to fulfill the promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Lok Sabha campaign.
Playing down the dissent, Vishwambhar Choudhary, a close aide of Hazare, said both groups were working towards the same goal. “When you plan an agitation, you have to keep a limited and achievable agenda, which in this case can be the land bill. Other demands such as fair price for farm produce and minimum wages are also important and we plan to create awareness about them too. We don’t think there is any friction here. We can work with each other in future,” he said.