RSS Farmers’ Body Turns on Government and the ‘Lobby’ Thwarting Them

"If we agree with the government, like on the PM Kisan Nidhi scheme, we welcome the move, or else oppose and protest.” 

There is trouble in paradise. After showing much patience, RSS’s farmers organisation Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) gathered over one lakh farmers today in its Kisan Garjana Rally, at New Delhi’s historic Ramlila Maidan. Over time, the BKS and the Modi government haven’t been seeing eye to eye on agrarian issues including GM mustard, MSP and GST. Finally, the BKS cadre across 600 districts is mobilising to make the government listen.

It’s the first agrarian protest against the Modi government from within the RSS ranks. Didn’t letters and internal discussions work? Why a show of strength now? BKS general secretary Mohini Mishra said: “Government is the government, and we are the largest non-political organisation in the country; the government’s job is to bring policies and in a democracy, we have the right to express our opinions on it. ”

But weren’t the BKS consulted on these agrarian issues? “We had meetings and consultations with all, including former environment ministers, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, Deepak Pental. We have made our intentions clear, and yet our efforts are thwarted by a lobby. Now, we need to expose the lobby influencing policy decisions… We feel there is a foreign hand, possibly American, and a conglomerate of foreign seed, fertilisers and agri-inputs companies. They have placed someone inside the government. They are feeding wrong information to the government and getting bad policies implemented, we feel.”

The evidence? “We send letters, but get wrong replies, and fraudulent or old figures are shared. We write to the minister but get redundant replies from third parties’ emails. So to add weight to our letters, we are doing this protest and have intervened in the GM mustard PIL, too,” Mohini Mishra added.

“The same lobby is responsible for the GM mustard push. This GM mustard (DMH-11) is not new, but an old project of the shadow lobby group. Nowhere in the world are GM crops high-yielding. Deepak Pental, with questionable scientific credentials, is being used by the lobby to push GM crops in India. Various scientists within the system have been auctioned off already. And these people are saying GM is a solution. But in fact, farmers are the solution. Give Indian farmers three years and incentives, India can be made self-sufficient in oilseeds. We did this with dal, we can do this in edible oil again,” Mishra said.

Also read: RSS’s Farmers’ Body Holds Large Protest in Delhi, Blames Modi for Agrarian Mismanagement

Mishra pointed to the recent GEAC MoM: “As per the MoM, GEAC admits there is no scientific data to verify the claims. The data available is redundant and from 2010. We should properly, independently, assess the technology before giving such approvals.”

And what about Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav’s recent comment on GM imports? Mishra brushed it off: “He is a political person and will say anything for votes.”

The BKS has proposed an alternative pricing to MSP based on cost of production. “ We don’t accept MSP. Why should farmers get MSP, when retailing happens at MRP? We want cost of production and profit for all farmers. Currently, thousands of farmers are en route to Delhi for this demand.”

The existing system of price regulation through the CACP? “CACP was made to provide cheap food for consumers and some share for the producers, hence our labour is considered unskilled, our resources are undervalued. It was the farmers that fed India during lockdowns, it is time to give farmers dignity and fair price,” Mishra explained.

“Farm subsidies should go to farmers directly, not to companies. Corruption at the mandis can be countered by having 22,000 farmers haats. And international agri corporations should be regulated.” BKS has critiqued the GST, too. “If we pay 18% on buying pipes and other inputs, why don’t we get credits? Other producers get input credits, why are farmers left out?”

Mishra is no fan of debt waivers either: “The waivers don’t help farmers, but help banks. We want DBTs and the PM KISAN scheme to be the way forward. The DBTs should be inflation-adjusted, because 6,000 may have been good earlier, but not now.”

What about doubling farmers’ income? “It was wrong of them to say that. Increasing prices doesn’t increase incomes. If the government had asked us, we would have given a clear roadmap, beginning with giving farmers rights and incentives to become small agri-processors. On the contrary, agencies like FSSAI are allowing edible oil blending, allowing GMOs to enter our markets unchecked. We often wonder whether FSSAI’s role is to adulterate or stop adulteration. Each bad policy is costing the livelihoods of our farmers. And we are in Delhi to change that.”

Indra Shekhar Singh is former director, policy and outreach, National Seed Association of India. He tweets at @Indrassingh.

This article was first published on The India Cable – a premium newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas – and has been republished here. To subscribe to The India Cable, click here.