New Delhi, Nov. 2: Former army chief General V.K. Singh today put his signature on an appeal to gherao Parliament on December 4 if a demand by sugarcane growers in North India was not met.
Releasing a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, General (retired) Singh and V.M. Singh, convener of an outfit called the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangahthan asked for the recommendations of a committee headed by C. Rangarajan to be junked.
“I am endorsing a call in which the interest of farmers is predominant,” General Singh said when asked at a media conference if he had called for a gherao of Parliament.
But the former army chief is one of two signatories of the letter addressed to the Prime Minister. The subject of the letter is “Objections to the report submitted by the Rangarajan panel with a request to reject the report by 30/11/2012 insofar as it pertains to the canegrowers of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar, failing which the farmers will gherao the Parliament on 4.12.2012”.
Since General Singh is now retired, his association with political platforms and issues “is a choice that a free citizen can make in this country”, a defence ministry official said. While in service, soldiers are forbidden from taking political positions publicly.
While his political preferences are a matter of individual choice, it is rare for a former service chief to be so critical of the government and state institutions as to even support a call to gherao Parliament.
“I don’t think so,” General Singh said when asked if he was joining politics. Asked to clarify his ideology because he has in recent months associated with Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal as well as Om Prakash Chautala, he replied: “I do not have any confusion.”
On Thursday, General Singh participated at an event in Rewari, Haryana, and shared a platform with Om Prakash Chautala where, too, he said the Congress-led UPA government was “weakening democratic institutions”. Earlier in the week, he addressed a press conference with Anna Hazare in Mumbai in which he called the government “unconstitutional” and sought the dissolution of Parliament.
Asked at the press conference today if he would participate in the gherao, General Singh replied: “We have written a letter to the Prime Minister. We have a competent and sagacious PM. We will cross the bridge when we come to it.”
In the letter, the organisation says that the panel headed by C Rangarajan, chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the PM, did not take the interests of sugarcane growers of the North into account. The committee’s report is titled “Report of the Committee on regulation of sugar sector in India: The Way Forward”. Singh has written in the letter that the report does not distinguish between the sugarcane farmers of the North and the South (including Maharashtra). The recommendations would benefit only the farmers of the South where the yield is higher and the commercial practices were different.
“In case the report is not rejected, the canegrowers of the Northern States would gherao Parliament on December 4 as a protest,” the letter concludes. The minister for food had said the report would be accepted in the winter session of Parliament due to start from November 22.