A day after the Rajya Sabha passed two of the three contentious farm Bills amid bedlam and Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured that Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farm produce will remain unchanged, RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) said that “those who came up with the legislations were not aware of the grassroot reality”.
“Ye kamian jo dharatal pe kaam karte hain unhi ko samajh mein aati hain…Us drishti se abhi bhi ham keh rahe hain ki kamion ko dur karna chahiye…Agar naya kanoon laana parhe to naya kanoon laya jaye. Ye kanoon aise logon dwara banaya gaya jinko dharaatal ki jaankaari nahi hai (Only those who are at the grassroot level understand these shortcomings. From that point of view, we are still saying that the shortcomings should be addressed. If new legislation is to be brought, it should be done. This legislation has been drafted by people who are not aware of the grassroot reality),” BKS General Secretary Badri Narayan Chaudhary said while talking to The Indian Express on Monday.
“There are practical weaknesses (in the Bills),” he added.
On assurances given by the PM and the Centre, Chaudhary said, “BKS is still of the view that if you are giving a verbal assurance, put the same in the Bills itself. If MSP is not going end, these are three Bills and they have not put a word on MSP in any of these.”
After defending the Bills strongly on Sunday, Modi had said on Monday, “I want to make it clear these laws are not against agriculture ‘mandi’, it will continue like it always has. I want to assure every farmer that the Minimum Support Price system will continue as before.”
Targeting the Opposition, he had said that a few people are trying to “mislead and instigate the farmers” as they “feel that control is slipping away from their hands”.
BJP ally and NDA constituent Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is also up in arms against the Bills. Party MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal had resigned as Union Cabinet minister in protest opposing the Bills in Lok Sabha. SAD has sought President Ram Nath Kovind’s intervention, urging him not to give his assent to Bills.
Amid widespread protests in Punjab, all political parties, excluding BJP, are protesting against the Bills, while also taking shots at each other.
Chaudhary said it was very painful that politics was being played on the issue. Asked about the Centre projecting the Bills as ‘historic’, Chaudhary said, “Etihaasik ban jaate agar inhone ye moolbhoot kamian nahi chhor di hoti to (The Bills would have indeed been historical, had they addressed the basic shortcomings).”
Apart from voicing farmers’ concern on MSP, Chaudhary said that as per the new legislation, there was 72-hour window for making payment to farmers for the produce. “Why is there no provision to make payment instantly at the time of purchase itself? That means the buyer will not be the trader, but a middleman. He will first take the produce, sell it and then make the payment to farmer. Are they removing or adding middlemen? I can say that this could not be their (government’s) intent, but they might not be knowing the ground reality,” said the farm leader, who hails from Rajasthan.
“Even today, there are thousands of cases in the country where traders did not pay farmers for their their produce. Neither market committees nor governments took any responsibility. Now, under legislations, there is provision for purchase outside the (government designated) mandis. Anyone with a Permanent Account Number (PAN) can make purchase and such cases will increase more. There should have been a mechanism in the Bills to stop such malpractices,” said Chaudhary.
“In Nashik, grape traders from North India run away with money, The traders of Himachal Pradesh apples who come from places like Hanuman and Ganganagar also pocket money and run away. The orange traders indulge in bungling worth lakhs in Nagpur. And it is the farmer who suffers always. That is why they demand an assurance from such traders,” he added.
Chaudhary said that the BKS had its presence in more than 500 districts in the country in varying levels and to convey the farmers’ concerns, “We got resolutions from 15,000 villages to the Prime Minister and the Union agriculture minister.”
On the future course of action after passage of Bills, he said, “Even if legislations are enacted, if there are practical problems, people keep raising their voices and make government the accountable for taking corrective measures.”
Unlike other farm organisations spread across Punjab, BKS is not active protesting on ground. Chaudhary said, “We continue to take up farm issues in our way, unlike the other farm organisations in Punjab which are aggressive in their approach. Hamara sangthan sadabahar chalne wala hai aur ham kisanon se jure alag alag jagah ke mudde ek saath uthate rehte hain (Our organisation is constantly working and we continue raising all issues simultaneously).”
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