SENIOR BJP leader and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha has decided to continue his agitation at Akola till the Maharashtra government accepts all his demands for farmers in the state.
The district administration had expressed its inability to meet one of his seven demands. Taking a tough stand, Akola Collector Astik Pandeya said, “We have accepted six of the seven demands and requested them to wind up the agitation. If they insist on the seventh demand, we will not honour even the first six.”
The demands are compensation to cotton farmers for damage by infestation of pink bollworm, action against seed companies manufacturing bogus Bt seeds, bank officials and administration executing loan waivers by personally going to gram panchayats, 100 per cent compensation for crop losses for moong, urad and soybean farmers, no disconnection of power to agricultural pumps, removal of unjust conditions from the gold mortgage waiver scheme of the state government for farmers and purchase of all farm produce at minimum support price by NAFED. “But for the last one, which is a call to be taken by the Central government, we have accepted all demands and have requested the agitationists led by Sinha to call off their stir,” according to the district administration.
Sinha said, “I am determined to stay till all the demands are met. The excuse about NAFED purchase is not valid as BJP-ruled states like MP and Gujarat have been procuring produce through their own procurement systems. Why can’t the Maharashtra government do it?” Sinha, who arrived at Akola three days ago to participate in Kapus Soybean Dhan (cotton, soybean, paddy) Parishad on Sunday, organised by local farmers’ body Shetkari Jagar Manch (SJM), had been “detained” by police near the collectorate, where he had sat on a dharna to press for the seven demands. “After detention around 5.15 pm, he and around 150-odd farmers were taken to the police headquarters. Around 9.30, they were told they are free to go. But they decided to stay put. So we provided them with food, water, blankets and toilet facilities,” Akola Superintendent of Police M Rajesh Kalasagar told The Indian Express.
Sinha was supposed to be joined at the December 3 parishad by BJP MP from Bhandara-Gondia, Nana Patole, who had himself announced Sinha’s participation at a press conference last month. A day before the parishad was to begin, Patole excused himself from the event as he had to attend his “only niece’s wedding”. Patole has been with Sinha since Tuesday afternoon and will continue to be with him on Wednesday. “Since the situation there is worsening, I decided to go. If it worsens further, leaders like Arun Shourie, Shatrughan Sinha and Varun Gandhi may also join,” he said.
Talking to The Indian Express over telephone, Sinha dismissed the notion that his agitation was political. “What is political about it? Am I going to contest from Akola? I have long taken leave from electoral politics,” he said.
Asked why he was fighting for farmers in Maharashtra when there are farmers’ problems in his home state of Jharkhand, Sinha said, “That’s a good question. It so happened that after my September 27 article in The Indian Express, a lot of people took notice and called me. The local SJM also invited me to Akola to deliver a lecture on demonetisation and GST on October 15. At that time, a lot of farmers also came to meet me and apprised me of their problems. I found the problems to be very serious since Vidarbha is notorious for farmers’ suicides, more problems for farmers could lead to more suicides. So I decided to agitate for them.”
Asked why he was raising demands like cost of production plus 50 per cent more to farmers when this political promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was now being seen as not conforming to pragmatic economics, Sinha said, “There is no question of economics here. We need to remind the government that this is the promise they made and so they should fulfill it.”
CM requests for talks, no response from Sinha
CM Devendra Fadnavis’s attempts to explain the measures undertaken by the state for farmers elicited negative response from Yashwant Sinha. Highly placed sources in the government told The Indian Express that the CM tried to discuss all issues raised by Sinha through a public demonstration in Akola on Monday. “He conv-eyed to the district collector that he would like to talk to Sinha, but the latter did not resp-ond,” said a source. The message conveyed to the state was that Sinha was not keen on holding talks with the govt or the CM. Instead, he wanted to continue the stir after submitting the memor-andum of demands at the collector’s office.