Farmers' protest a stunning example of people's power, says Rahul

Rahul Gandhi on Monday described the farmers' movement in Mumbai as a "stunning" illustration of people's power and directed the Maharashtra Congress unit to send a delegation to extend support.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 13.03.18
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Farmers in Mumbai on Sunday night. (PTI)

New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi on Monday described the farmers' movement in Mumbai as a "stunning" illustration of people's power and directed the Maharashtra Congress unit to send a delegation to extend support.

"The mammoth #FarmersMarchToMumbai is a stunning example of people's power. The Congress party stands with the farmers & tribals marching to protest against the Central & State Governments' apathy. I appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister to not stand on ego and to accept their just demands," Rahul tweeted.

Although parties like the Congress, NCP and the Shiv Sena had extended full support to the long march, a high-level Congress delegation headed by state chief Ashok Chavan met the farmers at the protest venue on behalf of Rahul.

In Delhi, Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala described the agrarian crisis under the Modi government as unprecedented.

Surjewala released data that sought to punch holes in the BJP's claim that the farmers were being given input cost plus 50 per cent profits.

"Forget 50 per cent profits, in some cases, even the input cost was not covered. There was a false loan waiver scheme, forcing the farmers to take the extreme step of the Long March. There has been an increase of 41 per cent in the number of suicides by farmers over the last three years," he said.

Surjewala accused the Prime Minister of making false claims instead of delivering on the lofty promises made in the 2014 manifesto.

Appeal to PM

The overwhelming response to the "Long March" of the farmers has again brought to the fore the agrarian crisis in the country, Kishor Tiwari, farm activist and chairman of the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission said on Monday.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he urged the government to have a relook at its agrarian programmes in order to mitigate the distress of farmers.

Drawing attention to what he called disturbing facts, Tiwari said that despite schemes like loan waiver, farm credit, irrigation and electricity supply to pump sets, an "unaccountable and hostile" bureaucracy was failing to provide relief to farmers.

He said that stringent norms introduced by the bureaucracy was keeping eligible farmers out of the relief network.

Faulty policies of the Reserve Bank of India and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) and other financial institutions had also failed to keep to the deadline laid down by the government for these schemes, he said.

He added in the letter that these factors were creating an atmosphere of no-confidence among farmers.

Despite the government's announcement of relief to 5 million cotton cultivators whose crops had been damaged by pink bollworms, it was being denied by agencies like the NDRF as well as seed and crop insurance firms, he said.

"This year, the state has implemented a mega agricultural debt waiver and debt relief scheme for the benefit of around 6 million farmers but as the state has no direct control over the functioning of PSU banks, it failed to give timely and sufficient credit to debt-ridden farmers," said Tiwari.

He said that all major crops, like cotton, soya bean, pulses and paddy were being sold at prices lower than the stipulated minimum support price because of the stringent norms laid down by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) and the Cotton Corporation of India. He added that the government's intervention in this matter was "poor". PTI