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Friday, July 20, 2018

Guar exporter’s daughter,crusader for farmer rights and Rs-197-cr candidate

National Unionist Zamindara Party was founded by a union of guar gum farmers.

Written by Sweta Dutta | Jaipur | Published: December 5, 2013 5:41:53 am

As heir to a booming guar gum export business,Kamini Jindal,25,helped her father B D Agarwal with the balance sheets and sundry jobs of the trade. That was until the latter decided to come up with a political party that has now made Kamini a household name in Sriganganagar.

Clad in simple salwar suits,she walked into houses concrete or kutcha,touched the feet of elders,hugged those her age and struck a conversation with everyone. And ever since she filed the affidavit declaring her assets,Kamini has had more questions to field than most other new entrants. At Rs 197 crore,she is among the richest candidates in the state but says she fails to see why there is such amazement at that.

She is the director of the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of guar gum powder,Vikas WSP Ltd. She says it would have been a joke if she declared less. “We are tax-paying citizens and have put down what we have. There is nothing wrong in it. Moreover,as the director of a booming export business that has been there since the 1980s,who would believe me if I put down an unearthly low figure,” says Kamini,whose family arrived in Rajasthan from Haryana in the 1970s.

The foray into politics was an intriguing one for Kamini,who has always been a known face in Sriganganar,engaging with the local community on social work,owing to her father’s involvement with local farmers.

Guar gum,which made headlines after its prices increased manifold,might have changed the lives of several traders and manufacturers but farmers on the field hardly benefited from the exports. Over two years ago,when a number of farmers committed suicide in the arid district of Sriganganagar,multimillionaire Agarwal decided to champion the cause of the farmers who were growing the raw material for his flourishing company. But when he went out offering help,several farmers snubbed him saying he could do no more than offer money while political parties were showing little sympathy for them.

This was what got Agarwal thinking he should start a political party. Last September,he finally registered the National Unionist Zamindara Party,formed by a union of guar gum farmers with Agarwal as the president.

He fielded wife Bimla from Sangaria and Kamini from Sriganganagar,besides several others across the state. Bimla,incidentally,has the lion’s share in the combined assets declared between the two of them — Rs 2,959 crore. This has got them a lot of attention but mother and daughter would rather be acknowledged as key players in the Rajasthan assembly.

Kamini is hopeful that her education and experience of working with the local farmer community will make her better placed to represent them. An M Phil in sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University,Kamini recalls how she was moved by the plight of the farmers,who rarely got a fair price for their produce.

“In 2010 and 2011,the farmers were starving and committing suicide unable to repay debts. They would not get proper prices. I was studying in JNU and as part of my dissertation I planned to study the changes in socio-economic conditions of the farmers. It was then that I learnt how they were deprived of their share and had to suffer due to government apathy.”

Between getting married and submitting the dissertation,Kamini squeezed out time to build a base for her political career earlier this year.

The promises made in the party’s manifesto are high on her agenda. “Unemployment is a major issue in this area. There are no factories despite good cotton manufacture. There used to be a train that connected Karachi to Bhatinda but that has stopped,hitting trade relations. We also want to make this area tax-free to encourage companies such as textile industries to set up shop here. Guar gum production is good in these parts and the farmers’ interests need to be protected.”

After months of electioneering,Kamini is now back with her husband,IPS officer Gagandeep Singla,at their home in Jaipur. She insists,however,that there is no looking back from her objectives,whether she wins or not. “Community work will continue to be my priority.”

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