According to Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) general secretary Badrinarayan Chaudhary, the current minimum support price (MSP) system is a sham that benefits farmers only in the two states of Punjab and Haryana.
The RSS-affiliated (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) farmers union has announced a symbolic dharna in 500 district headquarter towns on Wednesday to demand that a law be enacted to ensure remunerative prices for all farmers, with such prices set as per the different agro-climatic zones.
The BKS, on the other hand, has stated that it will not be joining forces with the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is also calling for a law to guarantee MSP for all farm produce. Although the BKS blamed the SKM for politicizing the agitation, it also blamed the BJP-led union government for prolonging the agitation.
The government is unresponsive
‘While many of the unions demands are unreasonable, the government must also be sympathetic to the farmers,’ Mr. Chaudhary said at a press conference. The BKS stated in a memorandum to the Prime Minister on August 11 that the main source of angst and unrest among farmers across the country is that they are not receiving a cost-based remunerative price for their produce.
‘Because we have not received a response, we will stage a nationwide agitation to demand a new law,’ said the BKS leader.
He noted that MSP rates were not keeping up with the rise in input costs and that they were only available to a small percentage of farmers, primarily in Punjab and Haryana. Mr. Chaudhary went on to say that it was absurd that the MSP for a crop was the same for farmers in Punjab who got free water and electricity and those in Rajasthan who had to pay for such inputs.
‘Remunerative prices should be set with input costs in 15 different agro-climatic zones in mind, and no one, whether government or private trader, should be allowed to buy crops at a lower rate,’ he said.
The BKS expects a nominal turnout of 200 farmers at the Jantar Mantar protest site, as well as small groups at various district headquarters. ‘Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to adhere to distancing norms and will not gather large crowds.’ It will be a symbolic dharna,’ said Harpal Singh Dagar, the BKS’s Delhi state president.
‘We will submit a memorandum to district magistrates throughout Uttarakhand West U.P. demanding guaranteed remunerative prices for farm produce,’ told Sohanpal, the BKS West U.P. and Uttarakhand organization secretary.
‘Regardless of which government is in power, we have been calling for guaranteed remunerative prices for more than four decades, as this would protect farmers from price inflation in diesel, electricity, and urea. ‘We anticipate that the government will pay 15% more than the input cost,’ he said. This, according to Mr. Sohanpal, could be accomplished by enacting a separate law or making necessary changes to the three farm laws passed last year, which sparked widespread protests.
‘Why should the farmer get the bare minimum for his effort?’ he asked, adding that farmers are currently losing money because MSP does not always keep up with inflation.
Leaders of the SKM, on the other hand, have dismissed the BKS protest as an attempt to divert attention away from their demands and undermine their larger agitation.
Mr. Chaudhary, on the other hand, claimed that a nine-month dharna could only be sustained because it represented the interests of wealthy farmers and had become politicized. ‘We represent the 85 percent of small and marginal farmers who cannot leave their fields to sit on dharna for days on end. Unlike them, we are deshbhakt (patriotic) farmers who will not engage in violent protests or call for the overthrow of governments,’ he added.
Mr. Sohanpal described the BKU’s protest in the region as ‘politically motivated noise,’ adding that many of the elements in the three farm laws were championed by the union’s founder, Mahendra Singh Tikait. ‘We can always talk about the flaws, but some farmer organizations have taken a firm stance.’