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PM Modi’s ‘Best Deal’ is For Corporates, Not Us, Say Farmers

Farmers say that the government’s offer for talks don’t have any meaning when it internet is suspended, and cemented barricades and barb-wires are being put.

Holding the plough on his shoulder, Mangal Singh posed for a photograph in front of a grand wall painting at Delhi’s North West Border, Singhu. Singh has come to the border for the third time during the two-month long farmers’ agitation demanding the repeal of three recently enacted three farm laws and the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill. Mangal Singh is among many farmers who have returned to the protest sites after tensions erupted.

Post altercation with police personnel during the Republic Day tractor parade organised by Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a collective of farmers’ organisations, the agitations stationed at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders saw violent attacks allegedly by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers.

“I came here only after hearing the news of violent attacks on protesters by the goons. I will stay here for one week. Once I return, my younger brother will join the struggle. They pelted stones on us because they wanted to provoke the youth. But we remained peaceful. The government is sending the goons in the guise of local population to break the movement whereas the fact is local population is supporting the agitation by going beyond their limits,” said Mangal Singh, a farmer who hails from Hoshiarpur.

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Baljinder Singh who came from Fatehabad in Haryana, standing besides Mangal, told NewsClick that the locals have been providing water, toilets and shelters to the protesting people. “I came along with my family. A family here gave us their rooms so that our ladies and children can stay safely. It is indeed the police that is harassing the population by putting the cemented barricades three kilometres away from the Singhu village. They even blocked the internal lanes. It is all intended at creating the rift between farmers and locals. But they would not succeed.” Baljinder Singh said.

When asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark that the Union ministers gave farmers’ organisations the “best deal” and resumption of talks during a recent all-party meeting, Mangal Singh said that talks do not have any meaning in current atmosphere when the government is suspending the internet, putting cemented barricades and concertina wires. “First they brought goons to vitiate the atmosphere, now they are giving us this deal. There cannot be any talk if you put sword on my neck and engage in dialogue,” he said, maintaining that the number of participants have only swollen after the violence by goons in alleged connivance with the Delhi Police, which is under the Union government.

The Centre has proposed to put the thee farm laws on hold for one and a half years and form a committee to look into the issues raised by the protesting farmers. However, the farmers have reiterated that they want a complete rollback of the laws.

Away from the stage, Sudheer Kumar arrived along with his relatives, Ajay Verma and Suraj Kumar, to visit the protest site from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. “We came here to share their grief and extend our solidarity. We are farmers and we only know pain when you get nothing at the end of the season,” Sudheer Kumar said, adding that he has been growing vegetables to sell in the local mandi. “I grow vegetables in my two-acre farm. The last crop that I sold was tomato. While the cost remained at Rs 30,000 for all the produce I sold, it would have fetched Rs 60,000 if the rates were in our favour. We cannot leave our farms barren,” her said.

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When asked if the movement was weak in their region, Sudheer Kumar said that this was partially true. “The farmers everywhere are perturbed. Let the government run the trains, it will know the true extent of the movement. Not every farmer is financially strong that they can come on their tractors, but they are concerned.” A similar complaint came from many farmers that trains running from Punjab have been diverted or terminated before their destinations to prevent farmers from reaching the national capital.

Reacting to their local BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj calling names to farmers, Sudheer’s relative Ajay Verma said, “Only those who subscribe to the ideology of (Nathuram) Godse can say such things.” Maharaj, Member of Parliament from Unnao, was in news for calling the protesters ‘fake farmers’ and the movement being limited to Punjab and Haryana.

Verma added, “Their (UP government’s) mendacity ruined the agriculture completely. Now, a member of every family has to be stationed in the fields to protect the crops from stray animals. If you miss for one night, your crop will be gone. They only want to divide people on communal lines. Maharaj adopted Tikar Garhi village under PM Adarsh Gram Yojana. There is nothing Adarsh in it. Since the village is just besides my village, I know its reality.”

Sudheer Kumar claimed that the government’s coercive actions are continuing against protesting farmers and workers, and both are on the losing side. “I initially did not tell you because I did not know how one would react. I am a factory worker too. After getting free from factory, I dedicate my time in farms because my elderly father cannot handle it completely. I work at the factory of a prominent shoe brand. Our district is home to several tanneries and factories due to its proximity with Kanpur. The fact is I am getting Rs 8,400 as my salary. After deducting the provident fund, Rs 7200 comes in my hand. We have been crushed from both sides,” He said.

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Verma nodded his head to agree with Kumar and said, “The job loss has only increased. The jobs lost due to coronavirus have not returned so far. A similar thing is happening with agriculture.” He further added, “The minimum support price is Rs 1,868 per quintal of paddy whereas the private traders are not offering even Rs 1,100 per quintal. I did not sell my paddy. At least the price should be equivalent to the cost. How can I sell it at loss? It only means debt for me!”

When asked about the deal mentioned by PM Modi, Singh said, “it’s not a sale deed. It’s a matter of life and death for us. We know his deal very well. Suspension of laws is a trap for us. He is right. It’s the best deal; not for farmers but corporates.”

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