Baghel slams nails, barricades at farmer protest sites, accuses govt of internationalising issue

Barun Jha and Asim Kamal
·5-min read

New Delhi, Feb 6 (PTI) Slamming the Centre over the treatment of farmers protesting the new farm laws, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Saturday likened the installing of multi-layered barricading and nails at protest sites to the old tactics of 'dacoits' blocking routes of villages while caring out robberies, and accused the government of internationalising the farmers' issue.

The senior Congress leader also warned that if the government does not resolve the issue of farmers soon, the agitation will spread across the country.

In an interview to PTI, Baghel said the farmers were demanding that there should be a guarantee on the Minimum Support Price (MSP) which should be given to them.

'Why only Punjab, Haryana and Chhattisgarh, in the whole country, crops should be bought at MSP,' he asserted.

He dismissed the suggestion that the Opposition could not forcefully raise the voice for the farmers on the three farm laws, saying former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi was the first one to raise the matter.

'When these laws were made, Rahul Gandhi was the first one to raise this issue, even in Parliament. He also carried out tractor rallies in Punjab and Haryana. He showed the way and then farmers proceeded on that path,' Baghel said.

The farmers are carrying out a non-political movement which is a good thing, but Rahul Gandhi had taken the initiative, the Chhattisgarh chief minister added.

He asserted that the Opposition strongly opposed the laws both inside and outside Patliament, and to say that they did not raise their voice forcefully is absolutely wrong.

Asked about the multi-layered barricading and iron nails studded on roads at the protest sites on Delhi's border points, Baghel said that in the olden days 'when dacoits used to carry out dacoities in villages, they used to cut off all the routes by installing nails and leave just one route open for their exit.' 'Now, the government is doing that,' he added.

On the controversy over global celebrities such as singer Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg expressing support to the farmers' protests, Baghel question the government's approach of countering them by issuing an official statement.

'You (the government) are further encouraging this by reacting to it. They (the government) have internationalised it. If you would not have reacted, it would not have been internationalised,' the Chhattisgarh chief minister said.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the MEA had slammed the remarks made by pop singer Rihanna and other celebrities and activists on farmer protests, saying the facts on the issue must be ascertained before rushing to comment on it.

Pointing out that India also speaks on issues of other countries such as on the Capitol Hill violence in the US recently, Baghel took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Howdy Modi event, saying he was seen 'campaigning' there.

He urged the government to take care of the economic needs of the farmers and fulfil its promises such as the implementation of the Swaminathan committee report and doubling farmers' income by 2022.

'You had talked about implementing the Swaminathan committee report and doubling the farmers' income by 2022. Now we are into 2021, how far have we reached in doubling the farmers' income, the government needs to answer these questions,' Baghel said.

If the government does not resolve the farmers' issue soon, the agitation will spread across the nation, he said.

To highlight the widespread opposition to the laws, he also pointed out that Rahul Gandhi had met President Ram Nath Kovind and handed over two crore signatures of farmers collected by the Congress against the farm laws.

Baghel alleged that the primary issue was 'that this government does not have a vision'.

From the time of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi, there was a paucity of foodgrains, but Indira Gandhi gave the slogan of green revolution to which the farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh responded and supported the government, he said.

The farmers increased production to such levels that 'we became aatmanirbhar as far as foodgrains are concerned', Baghel said.

'Now the government does not have a place to keep all the foodgrains. You can't just keep putting it in godowns as there is a limited capacity. They should have acted on time, I had proposed two years ago that states should be allowed to use the surplus foodgrains, be it 'Makka (maize) or Dhaan (paddy)', to produce ethanol,' he said.

'But it is stuck. If you give this permission to states there will be less pressure on the Centre as well as states,' Baghel argued.

Farmers are producing at the behest of the government, so who will ensure their welfare and why should they not get MSP, he asked.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh demanding the rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the 'mercy' of big corporations.

However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture. PTI ASK/BJ SMN SMN