“Are people paying the Krishi Kalyan cess so the government could buy bullets to shoot farmers?” the CPI(M) asked on Thursday as it attacked the Centre over the violent stir by cultivators in Madhya Pradesh. The Left party’s criticism of the government comes after five protesting farmers were killed, allegedly in police firing, in Mandsaur district in the state.
The CPI(M) held the “callous” attitude of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra for the widespread protests there and asked them to take steps to stop the “disastrous” immiserisation of farmers. Taking to Twitter, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the “brave” Centre was parrying queries on the stir from the media.
Yechury also referred to certain reports claiming Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh cancelled his scheduled press briefing on his department’s achievements in three years to drive his point home. The media conference post-weekly cabinet meeting too was cancelled for the same reason, he said.
“Are we all paying the Krishi Kalyan cess to the Central government so that it can buy more bullets to fire on farmers? Such a brave govt, takes no questions. Its agri minister cancels 3-year celebration press meet. No briefing after cabinet meeting either (sic),” the CPI(M) leader tweeted. The government started collecting 0.5 per cent Krishi Kalyan cess from June 1, 2016 on all taxable services for
improving the agriculture sector and farmers’ welfare.
Yechury’s predecessor, Prakash Karat, also hit out at the Centre over a fall in prices of various crops, including chili and onions. The government’s claim that farmers income will be doubled over the next five years seems a “cruel joke”, he said. “It is the callous attitude of the BJP state governments and the Modi government at the Centre which has led to the widespread protests in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh,” Karat said in an editorial of the party mouthpiece “People’s Democracy”.
He asked the Centre to forthwith implement its promise of giving farmers good prices for their produce based on the cost of production and 50 per cent profit. The state governments should take debt relief measures, including farm loan waiver. “To begin with, they should stop police repression of the protesting farmers and hold talks to meet their genuine demands,” Karat said.
The farmers in Western Madhya Pradesh, particularly Mandsaur and Dewas districts, have been protesting for a week
demanding debt relief and better crop prices. Five persons were on Tuesday killed as the farmers’ agitation turned violent, prompting the authorities to clamp curfew in the trouble-hit area.