Kolkata: Farm loan waiver scheme alone would not be sufficient to alleviate farmers’ distress across states and ensuring remunerative prices for their produce should be coupled with it so that they do not get into indebtedness further, a leader of peasants’ movement in India said here on Thursday.
One of the biggest farmers’ body in the country, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), President Ashok Dhawale said neither the Narendra Modi government at the centre and nor the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government is addressing the issue of farmers’ indebtedness and non-remunerative prices that they have been reeling with.
“Farmers, all over India, have two fundamental demands – liberation from debt or a complete loan waiver and remunerative prices so that they do not go into debt again,” he said.
The National Commission on Farmers, headed by M.S. Swaminathan, had recommended that every farmer for every crop should get a minimum support price that includes the entire cost of production and 50 per cent profit, Dhawale said.
“Loan waiver must be the first step and it cannot be the final step. After that, implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendation must be done so that they do not get into debt again. Both these things should be done together,” he said.
According to him, newly elected Congress governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh announced “partial loan waiver” after coming to power in their respective states because of “growing peasants’ movement” in the country.
He said small, medium and tenant farmers and agricultural workers are still left out of the institutional loan package as they used to borrow from local money lenders.
“Our demand is that loan of small and medium farmers should also be waived. Two private member bills were placed before parliament,” he said.
“We see neither the Narendra Modi government at the centre nor Trinamool Congress government in the state addressing any of the two basic issues,” he said on the sidelines of the 52nd anniversary of the CPI-M’s daily mouthpiece ‘Ganashakti’.
He criticised the state government for giving some “cash sops” to state farmers ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced yearly financial aid of Rs 5,000 per acre for all peasant families in the state.
“Unless two basic issues of freedom from debt and profit-making prices, sops like this are not going to lead to any fundamental change in the farmers’ life. They may get a few votes with such cash sops,” he said.
Banerjee also announced life insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh for each of the state’s farmers aged 18-60 years under a state-sponsored ‘Krishak Bondhu’ scheme from 2019.
“Instead of giving help to farmers after their deaths, why does the government not give some help when they are alive?” he asked.
Farmers’ movements have become mature, Dhawale said, adding that they have realised that these are not the sops for which farmers are fighting.
“We are for radical changes in the agrarian system,a he added.A