In Maharashtra, the All India Kisan Sangh, which is striking for the rights of dairy farmers, has decided to up the ante.
As cracks appear in the alliance of farmers’ groups leading the nationwide strike, various farmer leaders and groups are trying to ensure that they remain together even on non-agrarian issues and become a potent force that can influence policy decisions. Raju Shetti, MP from Kolhapur and president of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, said general elections in 2019 will mainly be fought on issues related to agriculture and farmers. So, the task ahead is to create a farmer pressure group at the national level that could act as a major influence on policy decisions.
Shetti’s organisation is part of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a coalition of 193 farmer organisations from across the country. It has been lobbying for enactment of two private Bills — Farmers’ Freedom from Debt Bill and Guaranteed Fair and Remunerative Prices Bill — to ensure comprehensive debt relief and remunerative prices for farm produces. The Bills, submitted by Shetti and KK Ragesh in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, respectively, have support of 21 political parties. The AIKSCC has also submitted the Bills to President Ram Nath Kovind and requested him to call a special session of Parliament to discuss agrarian crises and pass these Bills.
“I have seen the work of four chief ministers in Maharashtra and the work of the previous governments. This is the first time that I have seen such an insensitive government in my entire political career. Hence, there is need to form a united front against the government,” Shetti said. After the BJP lost Kairana bypolls, the government on Wednesday announced a bailout package for the sugar sector.
Shetti said the unity among farmers has at least forced the government to talk about agrarian issues. The aim is to ensure that 15-20 farmer leaders get elected so that farmers’ voice is not suppressed in Parliament. This will make a difference, Shetti said.
Shetti is critical of the strike called by the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, an umbrella body of 130 groups, along with the Kisan Ekta Manch, and called Sandeep Gidde and Kakaji Sharma of Kisan Andolan proxies for the government. The leader, however, is supporting the agitation called by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). It is important to note that AIKS’s agitation in Maharashtra is different from the farmers’ strike that is going on in 10 states. But he is clear that a pressure group needs to be formed and sustained so that it could force the government to look at farmer’s issues.
Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh said condolence meets were held across the country to mark the first anniversary of the killing of six farmers in police firing during an agitation in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh.
Farmers will distribute milk free of cost on Thursday in government hospitals, Abhimanyu Kohar, national coordinator of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, said. In Maharashtra, the All India Kisan Sangh, which is striking for the rights of dairy farmers, has decided to up the ante.