New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi should for once express grief in Parliament over the death of around 750 farmers during the months-long anti-farm law protests on Delhi’s borders, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said on Saturday.
He slammed the BJP-led Centre over the minimum support price (MSP) issue, and alleged that the government’s assurance that the system would continue is “only on paper” and the farmers want it in reality.
Participating in a discussion titled ‘Seeds of Wrath: Fears and Facts: How to address the farm crisis’ at the India Today Conclave 2021, BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal countered Tikait alleging the protest against the three Central agri laws appeared to be politically motivated.
At the conclave, Tikait said, “Farmers are protesting to get an appropriate procurement price for their crops. The government claims the MSP has been there, is there and shall remain in place but the farmers want that in reality and not just on papers.”
“The protest by farmers has entered its 11th month. The government and the prime minister should for once speak in Parliament about the 750 farmers who have lost their lives during the protest,” he said.
The PM should express grief at the loss of the lives of farmers, said Tikait, who has been leading hundreds of BKU members and protestors at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border since November 2020.
However, Agarwal said Prime Minister Modi always speaks about the farmers and has spoken about them in Parliament.
“The protest has entered its 11th month but there has been confusion about it all the time. There could be misunderstandings about the laws, but those have been debated on various platforms. The issue even reached the Supreme Court,” the Lok Sabha MP from Meerut said.
“I want to know just one point in the laws that they have an objection to. It (the protest) therefore appears to me not motivated by the interest of farmers but political agenda or political ambitions. The protest can be linked to some political parties,” Agarwal said.
All discussions about the laws have taken place and the Narendra Modi government is sensitive towards the farming community with a proven track record since 2014, he added.
About one of the new farm laws would facilitate a farmer to sell his crops in any ‘mandi’, Tikait claimed 182 ‘mandis’ have been shut in Madhya Pradesh because of their financial conditions.
“Farmers have been destroyed. MSP has only been on paper. Nobody visits villages. They sit in Delhi and pass laws,” he claimed, adding mandis are just platforms for a farmer to sell his produce and do not set the MSP.
Tikait said mandis were closed in Bihar 16 years ago and going by the logic of this government, the farmers of that state should have become rich by now.
To a question that MSP has not been a legal guarantee during previous governments, Tikait replied that is why those parties are not in power now.
“In 2011, a financial committee was set up with Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, as chairman. It had recommended to the Centre that a law should be enacted guaranteeing MSP,” the BKU leader claimed.
“Today, Modi is betraying the country over something he had recommended,” he alleged.
Agarwal, the BJP leader from western UP, referred to Rakesh Tikait’s father Mahendra Tikait, to highlight the woes of farmers and claimed the new laws have liberated them from mandis, allowing them to sell their crops anywhere.
Tikait, however, insisted if Agarwal could define “anywhere”.
Hundreds of farmers are encamped at Delhi’s borders points of Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur since November 2020 with a demand that the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 be rolled back and a new law made to MSP for crops.
The protests are led by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers unions.
The Centre, which has held 11 rounds of formal dialogues with the farmers, has maintained that the new laws are pro-farmer.