A Shameful Act of Apathy for Farmers and Empathy for Suit-Boot Friends by the BJP Government

  • Prof. Gourav Vallabh

It has been more than 45 days of the fight against apathy. Our ‘Annadatas’ have been sitting out in the cold and rains, fighting to save their dignity as farmers. The one word that the BJP government has justified in the last 45 days is ‘Apathy’. On one hand, there has been complete lack of sensitivity towards the plight of the protesting farmers and their demands and on the other, close friends of this BJP government have been receiving complete empathy and blessings for expanding their dominance in all spheres of business.

It has been 45 days, more than 60 people martyred. Sant Baba Ram Singh ji from Karnal, Amarjit Singh ji from Fazilka and our farmer brother Kashmir Singh ji from Uttarakhand have sacrificed their lives in support of farmers. Apart from this, more than 60 people were martyred while fighting for their rights in the bitter cold and rain on the borders of Delhi. The government talks, then gives a new date 5 days ahead. The question is not why only after 5 days!

On one hand, the farmers in return of their protests have only been receiving false promises, the friends have been receiving contracts after contracts to fill their pockets. This is a matter of serious concern as all this is happening as the farmers continue to protest.

Government Fooling the Nation

· Adani Agri Logistics Limited (AALL) has been awarded an exclusive service agreement with the Food Corporation of India for storage of foodgrains.

· Most of the contracts have been awarded to AALL from 2016 onwards. 8 Projects are Operational as on 31st March, 2018 and 9 Projects were Under Construction as on 31st March,2018.

· The chronology of AALL gaining stronghold of foodgrains storage in the country is as follows:

o 2016: Initial Evaluation by APSEZ of AALL o 2017/18: AALL becomes a sizeable business with new contracts o 2017/18: AALL review of strategy and identification of potential sites for logistics businesses

· AALL handles 5,75,000 MT of food grain for FCI in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Another 3,00,000 MT of food grain is handled for Govt. of Madhya Pradesh. Additionally, AALL has expanded its footprints in Bihar, UP, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra & Gujarat.

· The revenues for AALL is guaranteed on INR/Ton based on minimum guaranteed tonnage. When the government can’t provide legal guarantee of MSP to the farmers, it is prepared to provide a revenue guarantee to AALL that too with price escalation based on inflation linked formula.

· The guaranteed tenure of such contracts is 30 years.

Government Fooling Farmers

· The Food Corporation of India’s local Chhattisgarh units have not started lifting the rice stocks yet.

· Despite a pre-intimation by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to procure 60 lakh metric tone of rice under the central pool for the kharif season, Chhattisgarh has not received a final consent.

· The Chhattisgarh state government started procurement on December 1and has procured 47 lakh tone from 12 lakh farmers so far. But the state is yet to receive a consent from the Government of India, despite several requests over phone. This would impact close to 21.52 Lakh farmers.

· Till January 1, the state government had procured 52.64 lakh metric tonne of rice.

· Due to FCI not lifting stocks, there is no more space left to stock paddy as well.

This is a clear case of complete apathy towards farmers who are fighting for their rights and to save their dignity, but the government seems to be occupied in filling the pockets of their friends. If the government is not willing to procure the volumes pre-intimated by them, even when the protests are ongoing, what can we expect from the government once all this settles down? The nation is also coming to a realization that it is only dedicated to filling the pockets of their suit-boot friends and are not procuring grains from states where their friends do not have a presence?

We have three specific questions for the government:

  1. Has the FCI halted procurement in Chhattisgarh because their suit-boot friends are not involved in managing storage in Chhattisgarh and will the procurement only start when their friends get control of storage?
  2. Are the farmers paying the price for voicing their protests against the farm laws? What about the false promise that the government procurement of foodgrains will continue?
  3. Why has been the BJP government in such a rush to award majority of the foodgrains storage to their friend who has suddenly emerged as the messiah of storage since the BJP government came to power?

The government should finally show empathy towards our Annadatas, repeal the three laws and provide legal guarantee of MSP to farmers, the same way you have provided to your suit-boot friends.

India is a democratic country and in democracy, the voice of the people is supreme. India is a democracy, where the personal ego doesn’t have any space. The voice of the people of the country is supreme and when the voice is from 62 crore Annadatas, it is supreme to supreme, so, I think, Government should take a stand, where they should provide justice in the same manner, which they had provided to Adani Agri Logistics Limited, they should give legal guarantee of MSP to the farmers of our country.

Number two, if they want to enact any farm law, please make the provisions after discussing with the farmers and second, once those provisions are made, have a democratic style discussion in both the houses of Parliament. It should not be, ‘Expel them and I passed’.

This is not the history of India’s Parliamentary procedures. We have stalwarts in our Parliamentary democracy. Across the world people used to tell, across the world, that India’s Parliamentary democracy had the great merits, great discussions, but it is not the way in which these three black farm laws were enacted, that is not the way.

The author is Professor of Finance and National Spokesperson, Congress Party

Based on Press briefing of 3rd January, 2021