April 10, 2021 10:51:50 am
Farmers under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha recently opened a front against the FCI by staging protests outside the agency’s godowns and offices calling it ‘FCI Bachao Diwas’. The SKM has also extended support to a separate 5-day Virodh Diwas agitation by Bhartiya Khadya Nigam Karamchari Sangh (BKNKS) at FCI’s divisional offices. The Indian Express explains why farmers are protesting in the name of saving the FCI.
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Why is the BKNKS protesting?
The BKNKS has their internal issues with the FCI authorities and these issues are related to their new transfer policy, recruitment norms as FCI employees are working almost with half of their sanctioned strength. Even in the pandemic year, they worked on war footing to supply foodgrain across the country during the lockdown period. They are protesting at the divisional and regional offices during the ‘Virodh Divas’ protests. They allege that even over-time payments of the employees are not made and several were issued chargesheets for no reasons while they were working day and night during a pandemic period. This is the reason that dharnas will be started at FCI zonal office, headquarters (north) and at the residence of the Executive Director (North).
Why did farmers protest outside FCI offices?
Farmers, who protested in various states including Andhra Pradesh, Vijayawada, Haryana, Noida’s regional FCI office, in Sitamarhi of Bihar, at the FCI godown in Rajasthan and at 60 places in Punjab, including Bhawanigarh, Sunam, Barnala, Sangrur, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Mansa and Amritsar etc., want new guidelines and quality parameters issued by FCI recently cancelled.
Farmers argue that the Centre must strengthen the FCI and fill all the vacant posts as well as regularise the employees on contract and make budgetary financial provisions for the corporation so that the FCI, which has taken huge loans to run itself, can be made self-dependent. They said the Centre is using FCI to issue new guidelines related to procurement so that it can run away from procurement.
Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the Bharti Kisan Union (Dakaunda), said that farmers of the country are aware that the fiscal health of FCI has become bad.
“Earlier on the recommendations of Shanta Kumar report, Centre wanted to close FCI. Then Centre tried to give cash to the poor people instead of giving them ration under Public Distribution System (PDS) so that PDS system can be closed. If PDS is closed then FCI will also be on the verge of closure,” he said, adding that to save the poor of the country and PDS, it was important to save this agency.
Why do farmers believe that saving FCI will protect their interests?
Farmers argue that if FCI is strong, farmers will also be safe and their produce will be procured by the government. During the pandemic the corporation has supplied foodgrains to 80 crore people of the country amounting to 197.89 crore tonnes. The FCI provides foodgrains to 68 per cent rural poor and 56 per cent urban poor, who are dependent on the PDS system. According to farmers, all this is possible only because the FCI procures grains through many channels and gets it transported to grain deficit states.
“We want that government should regularise the employees on contract and should fill all the vacant posts of in FCI because FCI, three farm laws and MSP all are inter-connected things,” said Jagmohan, adding that if FCI is closed then it will stop PDS and if PDS is stopped then the procurement of grains on MSP will also be discontinued by the government.
“Farmers will save FCI and never let it close as the centre was thinking,” he said.
SKM claims that the three central farm laws have been brought with an intention to dismantle India’s PDS regime, rather than improving and expanding the same. That is why protesting farmers are demanding a repeal of the three laws and a statutory guarantee to MSP and safeguarding the FCI, said farm leaders.
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