The first tentative moves towards the formation of a representative body of farmers — the National Alliance of Farmers' Associations — were made by the Bharatiya Janata Party at a meeting here on Saturday.

The BJP said it was of the view that efforts must be made to set up a farmers' organisation akin to the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry that represent industry.

At a meeting of farmer leaders from Maharashtra, Kerala, Bihar, Haryana, and Punjab and other States convened by the former BJP president and former Agriculture Minister, Rajnath Singh, it was felt that interest rates for agriculture loans should not be higher than 4 per cent in any part of the country. It recommended the example of Madhya Pradesh, where such rates are 3 per cent, and Chhattisgarh, where farmers need to pay just 1 per cent interest.

Mr. Singh referred to the report of the National Commission on Farmers and demanded that it be implemented in full. He said hunger and malnourishment were realities and just under half the world's children who suffered stunted growth because of malnutrition were in India. Increased agricultural productivity and higher remuneration for farmers were necessary to solve this problem

The high cost of labour in rural areas was another issue raised at the meeting. Several farmers said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme had pushed up labour costs and, in fact, there was severe labour shortage in some States.

Primary members

It was decided that initially 21 associations from 15 States that were present at the meeting would become primary members of the new National Alliance of Farmers' Associations and effort would be made to widen the membership and make it a truly representative organisation.

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