Farmers’ agitation off but resentment brews; demand for loan waiver stands, say BKU leadership


New Delhi, The Tikait-led Bhartiya Kisan Union agitation has been called off but resentment is simmering in the ranks as the government remained non-committal on the major demands for waiver of unpaid farm loans, implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations on minimum support price, rehabilitation of families of farmers who have committed suicide and review of the terms of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna. The huge arrears towards sugarcane growers is also a major issue, although the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government have taken steps to enhance the liquidity position of millers to pay off farmers. BKU top leadership told the UNI here on Wednesday that 'we have been given assurances on our demands but on the major ones, the government is non-committal.’’ Most importantly, during the meeting with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday, the Centre has assured the BKU that it will keep official procurement centres open for 90 days to enable farmers to sell their produce at mandis. They expect the minimum `boli’ at the government-pronounced MSP, and not lower than that. Among others who attended that meeting were BKU leaders Naresh and Rakesh Tikait, BKU Convenor Yudhvir Singh and farmer leaders from Punjab, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnatka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Although the government assured farmers of higher MSP for next rabi marketing season, they are unhappy at the manner in which the MSP is being fixed which is not as per the recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission Report. The demands on which BKU received assurances included lifting NGT ban on 10-year-old tractors, linking MGNREGA to farming, levying minimum GST of five per cent on farm equipment including tractor-tyres, equal pension for senior farmers and farm labours. Several farmers expressed their unhappiness at the manner in they were stopped at the Delhi-UP border at Ghazipur on Tuesday when they were marching peacefully to Rajghat and Kisan ghat even though the administration was aware of their rally. The farmers' march had begun at Haridwar on September 23 and was to end on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. ``If we can’t tell our woes to the government, then to whom should we? Ours was a peaceful procession, then where was the provocation to use force, tear-gas and lathi-charge us? This shows that this government does not care for farmers,’’ was the common refrain of several farmers. Use of force by police causing injury to several farmers at the border drew wide criticism following which the government allowed them to enter Delhi early Wednesday morning. That it happened on the birth anniversary of the Apostle of Peace made it look worse for the government. After paying homage at Rajghat and Kisan ghat (Choudhary Charan Singh’s memorial), the agitating farmers headed back home. Their hope now lies with the joint committee set up by the government to look at their major demands, they said.

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