|Picture from Archives|
In a recent press meet conducted by Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), it threatened that farmers can topple the BJP in the 2019 general elections if the promise of the minimum support price (MSP) at 50 per cent of the cost is not announced.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union on Wednesday announced to organise a “Mahapanchayat” of farmers from across the country on March 13 outside Parliament to press for acceptance of demands, including better remunerative prices for agriculture produce.
BKU’s leaders, including national general secretary Yudhvir Singh and Punjab general secretary Harinder Singh Lakhowal, said farmers were pushed to the wall and had to resort to path of agitation on account of government’s continued apathy to their plight. Yudhvir Singh said the possibility of farmers pitching camp outside Parliament for an indefinite period cannot be ruled out. “A call in the matter will be taken by farmers at the March 13 assembly,” he added.
The BKU is unhappy with Budget 2018-19 which, it alleged, has ignored demands raised periodically. A demonstration of strength outside Parliament when it will be in session will be apt to force government to act, it said. Singh cautioned the government that the BKU will not dither from giving a call to farmers to defeat the BJP in coming Assembly elections in the predominantly agrarian states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and in the next general elections.
The main demands include fixing of MSP using C2+50 formula, MSP of all crops with guaranteed purchase, total waiver of farmers’ loans, long-term interest free loans for agriculture, imposition of ban on GM crops, guaranteed minimum income for farmers and upping the credit limit on Kisan Cards from present Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
Here is the full text of the press release 28-02-2018
Agricultural Cabinet should be formed in India and government should give farmers fair and profitable price for their crops: Chowdhary Rakesh Tikait
Government of India should call for a joint session of the Parliament to discuss and find solutions for farmers’ problems: Lakhowal
The government must ensure guaranteed purchase and declaration of remunerative prices for all crops before sowing: Chaudhary Yudhvir Singh
A Press Conference was organized on 28-02-2018 at Indian Women’s Press Corps, Windsor Palace, New Delhi by BharatiyaKisan Union for matters related to farmers’ problems and to draw the outline of the campaign. Bharatiya Kisan Union National General Secretary Chaudhary Yudhvir Singh, Bharatiya Kisan Union National Spokesperson Ch. Rakesh Tikait, BKU Punjab President Shri Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, BKU Haryana President Ratan Singh Maan, BKU Delhi President Virendra Dagar addressed the Press Conference. All peasant leaders demanded loan waiver and to put an end to farmers suicides.
The 70th report of the National Sample Survey says that the average monthly income of a farmers family is INR 3844 which also includes income from animal husbandry. It is impossible to provide for a family with an average monthly income of Rs. 4000. This has resulted in increased debt on farmers further resulting in farmers’ suicides. The number of people leaving farming is growing. In the absence of proper planning by the Indian Government, their promise of doubling farmers’ income has proven to be hollow. Demonstrations are being held all over the country on these issues but the government is using repressive measures rather than holding dialogues with the protesters. Even the governments formed in the name of farmers’ welfare do nothing for them. With this press conference, Bhartiya Kisan Union wants the government to hear the following demands:
1. Farmers should get fair and profitable price using C2+50 for their produce: BJP in its party Election Manifesto has announced that it will ensure fair and remunerative prices which are 50% above the cost of cultivation based on the Agriculture Commission report but, while presenting the budget, the Finance Minister hasn’t made a clear announcement regarding the reference cost . His statement is contrary to the promise they made. He is now using A2+50 formula as reference cost which is totally unacceptable to the farmers. We demand that the government gives a 50% margin over the comprehensive cost C2 that is C2+50 as remunerative price for crops. Commission for Agricultural Costs and prices should be ended and the cost of production recommended by agricultural universities should be accepted.
2. Declare Minimum Support Price of all crops and ensure guaranteed purchase: Minimum support price of all crops should be declared and procurement of all crops should be guaranteed in the country. On the basis of MSP guaranteed procurement scheme should be launched. Even today the produce is getting sold below the support price. Extensive measures should be taken to stop this.
3. Farmers’ debts should be waived off completely: As indicated above, debt burden is the main reason for farmers’ suicides. In the year 2015, more than 3000 cases of farmers’ suicides were reported in Maharashtra alone. In Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh, every day the news of farmers’ suicide is in news but the government has taken no steps to provide any relief to the farmers through loan waiver. During the 2007-08 recession, the corporate world got a waiver of more than 3 lakh crore rupees and got relief. It is also understood from reports that even now, banks have written off thousands of crores of rupees of bad debts. However, despite so many farmers committing suicides, such a relief through loan waiver is not being given to farmers. Keeping in mind the agrarian distress in the country, there should be a total debt waiver on all kinds of loans of farmers
4. Provision of long term interest free loans for agriculture: Keeping in mind the present agrarian crisis, farmers should be given long term loans. Farmers should be given credit cards and loans for crops and machinery should be on zero interest for five years.
5. Kisan Credit Card: The credit limit on Kisan Credit Cards should be increased from three lacs to five lacs.
6. Proper Policy for welfare of families of the farmers who committed suicide: A nationwide policy should be formed for financial assistance of the families of the farmers who commit suicide.
7. Fix and guarantee minimum incomes for farmers: Farmers demand that like other sections of society, there should be a minimum income fixed and guaranteed for farmers too. For this purpose, there should be a Farmers’ Income Commission established. Through this, the government should ensure that a farmer’s family’s income is not less than the income of fourth grade employees.
8. Storage Facilities: farmers do not have options when it comes to storage facilities for their crops. Effective provisions should be made for proper cold storage and warehousing facilities.
9. Impose a ban on GM crops: BJP had in its manifesto promised that it will not introduce or commercialize GM food crops and will impose ban on GM seeds and plants but the Economic Survey of 2016-17 mentions that GM crops should be promoted for food security. Even the developed countries which have adopted GM crops on a large scale are facing lot of challenges with regard to food security. Bhartiya Kisan Union demands that the cultivation of all GM crops including GM Mustard should be banned and funding should be provided for the promotion of traditional farming.
10. Sugarcane farmers should be paid their arrears: There have been no price increases for sugarcane in all sugarcane-growing states of the country in the past two years. Sugarcane farmers have also not been paid their arrears. BKU demands that arrears be paid to sugarcane farmers immediately without any further delay.
11. Crop Insurance Scheme: A lot of propaganda was made around the new Crop Insurance Scheme but statistics indicate that the insurance companies got more premium and farmers received very less compensation. So evidently it is only benefitting the companies. From the information received so far, it is clear that the payment of claim is delayed and insufficient. High actuarial premium rates were applied, only to bring the indebted farmers under coverage. BK demands that the Crop Insurance Scheme considers farmers as a unit. All important crops should be brought under its purview. In distressed areas where there is no threshold yield, potential yield should be used for those crops for which the average yield data is not available. Damage to wild animals, fire, damaged crops due to chilly to be applied at individual level
12. No compromise should be made on the interests of farmers at the World Trade Organization: Agriculture should be kept out of the ambit of World Trade Organization and all agricultural imports should be banned. Agricultural imports are impacting farmers’ livelihoods and farm suicides are on the rise. The Economic Survey 2016-17 also makes it clear that India is becoming a hub for imports and there is a constant decline in exports. We demand that the Agreement on Agriculture in the WTO should be ended and all agricultural imports should be banned.
13. No liberalization in agricultural trade under Free Trade Agreements: If there is further liberalization of trade under the ongoing dialogues on Free Trade Agreements with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Indian agriculture will be affected very adversely. Because of this, milk, wheat, pulses and oilseeds producers will be adversely impacted given that these three countries are major exporters of these products. These countries need big markets like India for such produce. BKU demands that all free trade agreements in the agriculture sector be stopped immediately. If markets are opened at discounted prices for items like wheat from Australia, dairy products from New Zealand and edible oils from Canada then the livelihood of Indian farmers will be affected badly since these countries are prime exporters of these products. These countries need big markets like India. BKU demands that all dialogues on agriculture under these FTAs should be ended immediately.
14. Special Session in Parliament on agricultural issues: Agrarian crisis is intensifying every day because if which small and medium farmers are forced to leave farming and becoming laborers. A special session of Parliament should be called to address this crisis.
On 13th March 2018, Bhartiya Kisan Union will organize a Farmers Mahapanchayat on Parliament Street to address all these issues. Farmers from all states will participate in it.
Chowdhary Rakesh Tikait
National Spokesperson, BKU