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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

‘We need to come out of the wheat-paddy cycle… country faces loss worth Rs 36,000 cr every year’

Farmers are our own. They have been misguided by Congress-led state government. In Punjab, they are being given full support by the state government and hence they are not understanding the real benefits, says Former Punjab minister Surjit Kumar Jyani.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Chandigarh | October 4, 2020 1:36:21 am
farmers protest, farm bills, agriculture laws, wheat-paddy cycle, CHandigarh news, Punjab news, Indian express newsFormer Punjab minister Surjit Kumar Jyani.

As farmers intensify their stir against the three agriculture laws, the BJP has formed an eight-member panel to reach out to the protesters. Former Punjab minister Surjit Kumar Jyani, who hails from Fazilka, is the chairman of this committee. In an interview to The Indian Express, Jyani talks about why we need to come out of the wheat-paddy cycle and why a change in agriculture is needed.

Farmers are protesting against farm laws while BJP leaders are asserting that these laws are for the good of the farmers. Why has the BJP not been able to tell them benefits of the laws and what is the need for implementing these laws?

Farmers are our own. They have been misguided by Congress-led state government. In Punjab, they are being given full support by the state government and hence they are not understanding the real benefits. This panel has been formed to become a bridge between farmers and Union Government. However, I want to tell you that it is high time we came out of the wheat-paddy cycle. We have foodgrains for the next five years in our godowns and we have no place to store more. Wheat and paddy is rotting in many godowns and every year the country is suffering a huge loss of Rs 36,000 crores. Hence, we need to change. As change has happened in every field, now it is high time that change in agricultural practices came and items were grown as per demand of the population. We need to grow wheat-paddy as per our demands. It is completely optional for the farmer to adopt contract farming and grow things as per demand of a particular company. We have told them the benefits of these laws a number of times and are still explaining them.

Farmers have apprehensions that companies will have control over their land and they will have to do distress sale as per the wishes of the companies. What do you have to say about it?

Companies will sign a prior contract with the farmer and they will be bound to pay the farmers at the said contract rate even if there is a crop damage due to hailstorms or any disease strikes the crop. Crop will be insured. Hence, there is no question of distress sale. Moreover, the present system will continue as normal and hence it is up to the farmer whether to adopt contract farming or to continue with government’s procurement agencies.

You say godowns have foodgrains for the next five years. In that case, government may minimise buying or may not do any buying at all and private players can thus exploit farmers. This is the main apprehension of farmers which has not been redressed so far.

Yes, godowns are full of wheat and paddy but still the government will continue to purchase as per requirement. However, I must say that farmers must trust our worthy Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he has always thought of the farmers’ good. They need to cooperate with us and the entire system will be streamlined in one-two years. Someone had to make this beginning to revamp the country’s agriculture as many medicinal plants, vegetables, pulses, gluten-free grains and cash crops can be grown as per the market’s demand which can give good income to farmers. Already many progressive farmers are doing farming of mushrooms, mint, stevia etc and are earning good money. Unorganised contract farming already exists in our country, but it will be organised now. In case of any dispute, farmers can approach SDM in which two representatives of farmers and company will be there. Next they can approach DC and even a board can be constituted. These levels are for quick redressal of grievances as is done in panchayats because our judiciary is already overburdened with so many cases. Moreover, they will get payment of their crop within three days of giving harvested crop to the company concerned.

What was the need for forming an eight-member panel? What all work has this panel done?

This panel has been formed to talk to our farmers. We are contacting office-bearers of all the 31 kisan unions one to one. Rather, we have spoken to them three-four times and we have offered to sit with them for a table talk with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. We are hopeful that they will be coming for a talk soon as we will be giving them a written invitation from our minister and it will be addressed to each union head separately. After that, they can decide who all want to attend the meeting. We are here to get all their doubts cleared and if they want any changes to be made, they can suggest them and we will be open to discuss them and make the Government of India aware of their apprehensions and also the changes that they want in the laws.

But the union leaders have stated that they will take a call on this on October 7, when they have a meeting of 31 organisations. Hence they have not given confirmation to attend the meeting. What do you have to say about it?

They have to come for a table talk to get a solution as agitation cannot give a solution. We feel bad that they are sitting on train tracks and roads. But they need to find a solution. I hope they will soon have a meeting with the Union Minister. Our PM loves Punjabis and he values their hard work to feed this country. Hence he cannot think anything bad of the farmers. They need to trust him.

Farmers say that old days were good when there was no dearth of food and it was pure natural farming. Green revolution had many side effects. So they no longer want to take chances.

I hail from Fazilka village which used to be a desert-like area in the 50s and 60s. My father used to tell me that they were never able to meet their ends meet and yield from fields was bare minimum. The green revolution has made farmers prosper and even they solved the problem of hunger in India. Punjab took charge of the green revolution and we expect that now farmers will again show the path to the country as their farming practices are appreciated worldwide. They need to be ready for the change and we are here to support them.

If there are so many benefits of the laws, why are farmers on roads and up in arms against the BJP?

Doodh ka jala hua chhach bhi phook ke peeta hai… negative publicity has overpowered and hence they have developed many fears in their minds. The Congress-led Government, AAP and now even SAD in order to take political mileage have spread a wrong message about the laws. We are in touch with their union leaders, things will be resolved soon.

But now “boycott BJP” posters have come up in villages. Even dharnas have been organised outside the houses of many BJP leaders. How are you going to tackle it?

These posters will be removed by farmers themselves in the coming days. Once their doubts are cleared, they will themselves take off the posters. In a democracy, everyone has the right to protest and we too have the right to give our opinion.

Many BJP leaders are resigning from the party. Do you think the BJP has been left out in Punjab?

Those who do politics for self-interest, may be doing so. However, they are in a minority. Every office- bearer of party is important for us. It is a phase when many parties are talking against BJP. But we will come out strong in Punjab soon and we will form government in 2022. Now we are going to contest on all the 117 seats and farming reforms will be our main point to reach out to farmers. We will talk with facts — and correct facts.

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