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Opinion | Centre must remove fears from the minds of farmers

Fake dramas are being enacted on the streets by some opposition parties in the guise of farmers’ protest against farm bills. On Monday, a tractor was set ablaze by Punjab Youth Congress workers in the high-security zone of Delhi’s Rajpath, near India Gate. 

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Published on: September 29, 2020 14:54 IST
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Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | Centre must remove fears from the minds of farmers

Fake dramas are being enacted on the streets by some opposition parties in the guise of farmers’ protest against farm bills. On Monday, a tractor was set ablaze by Punjab Youth Congress workers in the high-security zone of Delhi’s Rajpath, near India Gate. Despite the presence of heavy police security, a few cars along with a truck carrying a tractor reached the spot at around 7.30 am. The tractor was dropped on the road from the truck, and the agitators set it ablaze even before the police could react. Fire brigade personnel reached the spot and doused the flames.

The video of the incident was posted live on the Facebook page of Punjab Youth Congress and some of the protesters also posted the video on their social media platforms. Delhi Police arrested five Youth Congress workers but Punjab Youth Congress president Barinder Dhillon is absconding. 

India TV reporters pieced together facts relating to this tractor. It was found that the tractor was registered in the name of Sandeep Bhullar, a Punjab Youth Congress worker. 

He had purchased this tractor from a farmer nearly ten days ago. The tractor was first set ablaze in Dera Bassi, Punjab during a Congress farmers’ agitation on September20. The half-burnt tractor was brought to Delhi in a truck, and it was set ablaze again on Monday near India Gate. 

Fake dramas like this are being organized by the Congress in different states to create an impression in the minds of common people that farmers are setting their tractors on fire in protest over the new farm bills. 

Farmers’ protests at present are confined only to some parts of Haryana and Punjab and there are allegations that local politicians, middlemen and commission agents, whose earnings are going to be adversely affected because of the new farm laws, are providing support to the agitating farmers. 

The common farmers in Punjab and Haryana are being misled with rumours that the APMC (agricultural produce marketing committee) mandis will be closed down and the government will discontinue fixing of MSP (minimum support price) for foodgrains and other produce. 

The Centre has time and again rejected these rumours as baseless. 

The farmers’ protests in Punjab are being openly led by the Congress chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, who sat on a dharna on Monday with 45 MLAs and six MPs in Khatkar Kalan, the native village of Shaheed Bhagat Singh in Punjab. 

The Punjab CM described the new farm laws as “draconian” and alleged that the new farm laws would mean the end of the public distribution system. He questioned whether corporate houses will subsidize foodgrains for the poor. He said, his government would challenge the new farm laws in the Supreme Court. 

What Capt. Amarinder Singh did not tell the farmers was that his own party Congress had promised to do away with APMCs in its 2019 election manifesto. 

For the last ten years, Congress leaders had been calling for putting an end to ‘kisan mandis’ and they were then being opposed by BJP leaders. Now that the BJP government has brought the new laws, the Congress has decided to oppose them tooth and nail.
 
Even the Shiromani Akali Dal, which was part of NDA government at the Centre, walked out as it found the ground slipping from under its feet. The SAD leaders feared a backlash from their farmers’ vote bank.  I sent our reporter to speak to farmers in Haryana and Punjab. 

They said that they trusted their commission agents (aadhatiya) more because their families have been doing business with them for several generations. 
The farmers said, in times of financial distress, these commission agents used to help them with loans, but if they are removed from the scene altogether, farmers will have nowhere to go to. 

It appears that the Centre’s message about transforming Indian agriculture is yet to reach the farmers in Punjab and Haryana. Farmers fear that in the beginning, the corporates would start buying their produce at higher rates, but after the mandis cease to exist, the corporates will start dictating terms and will lower the prices, because they will then be having a monopoly. 

The farmers will then be forced to sell their grains to corporates at throwaway rates. 

I feel that more clarifications need to be given to farmers in order to remove apprehensions from their minds. Rumours and speculations lead to mistrust, and the sooner this is avoided, the better.

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