Mumbai: As Rahul Gandhi walked through some of the villages in crisis-hit Amravati district of Vidarbha region, farmers hoped that his visit will at least wake up the BJP-led government at the centre and in Maharashtra on their distressing plight.
Arriving this morning at Amravati, where farmers have faced the worst crop losses, the Congress vice-president visited around half a dozen villages, interacting with the people. He said he wanted to learn about the problems and issues affecting them.
In trying to reach out to farmers, his ‘kisan padyatra’ (farmers’ march on foot) against Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s Land Acquisition Amendment Bill began at Gunji village, covering other little hamlets like Dhamngaon, Rajana and Tonglabad through the day.
“We have already had 512 farmers committing suicide this year in Vidarbha alone as crop failures and mounting debts forced them to end their lives,” says Kishor Tiwari, spokesperson for a farmers’ organisation, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS).
He said the agrarian crisis that was prevalent during the Congress-led UPA government remained unchanged despite the BJP making sky-high promises exactly a year back when Modi visited Vidarbha.
“While wooing the farmers in April-end 2014, Modi had promised they would get minimum support price (MSP) with 50 per cent profit above cost of cultivation if the BJP came to power. Now that the BJP is in government, the MSP announced earlier is nowhere in sight,” he says. While speaking on the credit policy, Modi had even assured that loans would be given to farmers at their doorstep “but now banks are coming to the farmers’ doorstep to recover their dues,” he says.
“The farmers are hoping that Rahul Gandhi’s padayatra in 45 degree Celsius summer heat to meet distressed farmers is a wake-up call to Modi and as well as Maharashtra Chief Minister Narendra Fadnavis who is on a tour of Israel, to study agricultural development there,” Tiwari said.
He said the situation in India was quite different compared to developed countries like the USA, where cultivation is mechanised and irrigation is not a problem. In India, just 35 per cent of the total agricultural land is irrigated while the rest is rain-fed. Subsidies to farmers in the USA are around 30 per cent of cultivation cost, which makes a big difference in the international market, he says.
He accused both the Congress and BJP of “promoting globalisation” with the former doling out “packages that were a drop in the ocean.” Tiwari says the farmers appreciate Rahul has coming out to listen to them “but he has visited Vidarbha even during the Congress rule and nothing good happened to the farmers.”