Lucknow: The Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has deputed senior IAS officers as nodal officers for hearing out the grievances of farmers, monitor paddy procurement, ensure that there are no complaints and manage cow sheds in each of the 75 districts of the state. The officers have been asked to report within three days and prepare an action plan. This appears to be in response to the widespread discontent amongst farmers over the three farm laws which, it is feared, will lead to an end of public procurement and hence of MSP.
However, some farmer unions allege that the idea behind the move is to keep a close watch on those farmers who are planning to join the ongoing protests on Delhi’s borders for over a month against the three farm laws enacted by the Narendra Modi government.
According to sources, the officers who have been deputed December 27 till January 2, include deputy collectors to additional district magistrates in Lucknow, Gonda, Rae Bareli, Bahraich, Shravasti, Ayodhya, Ambedkar Nagar, Barabanki, Sultanpur, Amethi, Sitapur, Etah, Mainpuri, Bijnor and Ghaziabad.
In the directive issued by the UP Government, it has been said that these officers should communicate with leaders of farmers’ unions of their region and address their grievances.
A senior revenue officer, who was designated to address the grievance of farmers in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity: "There will be a kisan seva kendra in every police station across the state where a dedicated officer will listen to and address the grievances of farmers, who will also be "educated about the three new laws", he said.
This is for the first time in the history of the state that the UP government has deputed senior IAS officers to each of the 75 districts for assessment of the ground-level situation about the development works and issues of farmers, like paddy procurement and sugarcane harvesting.
Asked if such measures are taken every year and what was the urgency now, Bhartiya Kisan Union’s (BKU) national spokesperson said: "The police are visiting the villages to gauge the mood of farmers and to know if they are planning to join the protest. The nodal officers have been camping in the villages for the past three days and are meeting the common people to hear their grievances, but some officers have also been dissuading them from joining the sit-in protests."
The BKU leader further alleged that in the name of addressing grievances of farmers, the administration was threatening farmers to stay away from the protest.
"Instead of initiating a dialogue with farmers, for which they have deputed, the administration is preparing a list of all the prominent farmer leaders in each district. They are also identifying farmers who plan to take part in the farmers' movement," the BKU leader alleged, adding that ever since farmer protests had gathered momentum and farmers from across UP were joining in, the Yogi Adityanath government was using all tactics to stop farmer movement toward the national capital.
“First, the UP Police prevented movement of villagers at the district level, put them under detention and placed them under house arrest, now they have deputed district officers for assessment of the ground-level situation on farmers' movement,” the leader said.
The BKU leader claimed that for the past five days, about 5,000 with about 300-350 tractor-trolleys had arrived from across Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Vehicles and tents are lined up from the top of the UP-Gate flyover till the Khoda Colony end along the Delhi Meerut Expressway (DME) and this growing number of farmers is giving sleepless nights to the Yogi government, he added.
Confirming dissuasion by some officials, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) UP general secretary Mukut Singh said such an initiative is a mere eyewash as the reality is totally different.
"I am getting calls from almost every district that senior IAS officers, revenue officers are asking farmer leaders to communicate with farmers to not participate in the protest. They have been told to tell farmers about how good these laws. The bottomline is that this is a bid by the government to break the movement or prevent farmers from going to national capital," Singh told NewsClick, adding that the officers were also noting down the basic information of farmers, such as name, address and etc.
The AIKS general secretary claimed that the officers were creating “fear psychosis” among farmers so that they stay away from the protest. "The government is highly mistaken if they think that they can persuade farmers or prevent them with threats. The protest at Ghazipur border started with merely 1,000 farmers but now more than 20,000 farmers are there," he added.
Dinkar Kapoor, president of Workers Front, who is active in the Sonbhadra region, alleged: "A large number of farmers from Uttar Pradesh were not being able to protest against the farm laws as strict police surveillance had made it difficult for them to leave the state.”
Meanwhile, Mazdoor Kisan Manch, along with several regional farmers’ rights activists of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Sonbhadra region, has formed an organisation to mobilise small and marginal farmers and extend support to the agitating farmers in Delhi and Noida. They, too, said they did not get permission for a sit-in protest by the state government.