Opposition must commit to loan waiver: Raju Shetti

Swabhimani Paksha MP Raju Shetti.

Swabhimani Paksha MP Raju Shetti.  

Political parties forming an opposition grand alliance must commit to a one-time comprehensive farm loan waiver and agree to implement the M.S. Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations on minimum support prices, said Maharashtra farm leader Raju Shetti.

“That must be on the election manifesto; that is our main condition for joining the gathbandhan [alliance],” said Mr. Shetti, who is president of the Swabhimani Paksha and member of Parliament from Hatkanangle.

While his party is in the midst of the seat-sharing talks with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party-led alliance, that took place in Mumbai on Thursday, Mr. Shetti asserted that his key demands on behalf of the farmers were non-negotiable.

The Swabhimani Paksha left the NDA in August 2017, citing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s failure to keep its promises to farmers.

“In 2014, Modi had promised to implement the M.S. Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations for an MSP that is 1.5 times of C2+FL, but he has not fulfilled it,” he said at an interaction in the capital. The formula of C2+FL refers to a more comprehensive cost of production than the government’s current calculation, and includes not just paid out costs and the imputed cost of family labour but also the rentals and interest foregone on owned land and fixed capital assets.

Mr. Patil said that even if the government were to now fulfil its promises or to offer a loan waiver, he would not rejoin the NDA. “They have lost the trust of the farmers completely,” he asserted.

Citing crop insurance as another area where the BJP’s promises had failed to keep pace with reality, he claimed that corporate insurers were collecting big premiums under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, but the payout to distressed farmers was minimal. Crop-cutting experiments were often faulty, he said, offering an example where 40 villages were denied a payout after the sample was taken from a single farmer who was not even on the registered list. “There has been no rain in Marathwada after September,” he said. “How will farmers face the drought without proper insurance?”

Mr. Shetti, who introduced two private members’ Bills that would create the legal backing for loan waivers and a guaranteed MSP in the last session of Parliament, said he realised that the Bills were unlikely to be considered, despite the on paper support of 21 parties. “That is why we had demanded a special session of Parliament to consider the Bills,” he said, referring to the main demand at last month’s Kisan Mukti March to the capital, organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, of which he is a key player.

The farm leader is now banking on new partners to help with a political victory that could ensure backing for the implementation of these measures on the ground.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 4:56:27 AM |

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