BJP’s ‘Bharat Ratna’ euphoria faces test of farmers’ protests

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The officials in the government maintain that “it is a wild idea that will make government go bankrupt if there is a legal guarantee to the MSPs”.

Farmers' delegation which met Union Ministers

Farmers' delegation which met Union Ministers

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, February 11: The decision to bestow Bharat Ratna on former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh by the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre appears to have failed in impressing upon the Jat farmers of Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. By Sunday, the social media platforms were full of videos and images of large size nails being installed on highways leading to the national capital in Haryana.

Farmers are leading a campaign to march to the national capital on February 13 to press for their demand for legal guarantee to the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs). The leader of the farmers’ union Mahendra Singh Tikait has asked the farmers to be ready with tractors. In a speech, he said that he has tuned the face of his tractor to Delhi. Tikait said: “Tractors are our tanks. We have to fight our battle with tractors.”

It may be recalled that the farmers had previously laid siege to the national capital by jamming the highways with tractors and trucks. They had held a year-long protest on the borders of the national capital to press for their demands for the withdrawal of the three contentious farm laws passed by parliament. Modi had afterwards announced the withdrawal by making a statement on television.

Videos doing the rounds on the social media platforms showed hundreds of farmers leading to the borders with the national capital from Punjab and Haryana. The demand for the legal guarantee to the MSPs had taken shape during the year-long farmers’ protests. The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS), also had been supporting the demand for the legal cover to MSPs. With the 17th Lok Sabha now completing its tenue after the conclusion of the Budget session of parliament, the farmers have turned restive that their demands for the law on MSPs have not been met.

Union Minister for Agriculture Arjun Munda in a written reply in the Lok Sabha had cited a study by the Indian Agriculture Council of Research to claim that the incomes of farmers have already doubled. He had shared a list of initiatives of the government to increase the incomes of the farmers.

But the farmers appear to be unimpressed with the claims of the Modi government. With the legal guarantee to the MSPs, the farmers are pressing for the demand that they should get the assured prices for their crops. While Union Ministers have held talks with the leaders of the farmers, the government seems to be in no position to persuade the cultivators to back off from their demands. The officials in the government maintain that “it is a wild idea that will make government go bankrupt if there is a legal guarantee to the MSPs”. They argue that the purpose of the MSPs is to give an indication to the agrarian market, and certainly not that the government would begin procuring all the grains in the harvest seasons.   

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