New Delhi. 09 April 2019
No party wants to address the core issue of farmers, that is guaranteeing them the minimum monthly income. Neither Congress had no mention of it in its manifesto of 2019 Lok Sabha elections nor has the BJP in its Sankalp Patra (manifesto). Both parties have preferred to be silent on it despite it being a major demand of farmers.
Terming the Sankalp Patra of BJP as Zero Patra for farmers, Avik Saha, National Convenor of Jai Kisan Andolan, expressed concern over the silence on two of the key demands – remunerative price and freedom from debt.
He said, “On freeing the farmers from the debt-trap, the manifesto does not have a single word. Not only does the BJP make it clear that it cannot do anything for setting the farmers free from the debt-trap, it has also made clear that it doesn’t even intend to do anything about it”.
Comparing it on this point, Congress has not only promised freedom from indebtedness through a combination of remunerative prices, lower input costs, and assured access to institutional credit but also promised decriminalization of farm loan default.
However, BJP has promised interest-free Kisan credit card loans for farmers and short-term new agriculture loans up to Rs 1 lakh at a 0 per cent interest rate for 1-5 years.
Analysing the Congress and BJP manifestoes, Sudhir Panwar, President Kisan Jagriti Manch, said, “Both the manifestoes are good. But implementation of promises is never done. What was in BJP manifesto in 2014 has not been implemented yet. Similarly, we can see what is happening to the loan waiver promise implementation in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, etc where Congress has been voted to power. So, the question is of intent and not the content”.
BJP has also promised pension to small and marginal farmers of above 60 years of age in their manifesto but has not specified what the pension would be and whether it would cover landless farmers as well.
Reacting to the pension promise, Avik Saha commented, “BJP has repeated the promise of its 2014 manifesto of giving pension to farmers but without clearly specifying the pension amount or the date on which this pension will be initiated”.
However, it is clear that Congress has missed out on this pension promise as this has also been the demand from various farmers’ organizations across the country.
BJP has reiterated its goal to double the farmers income by 2022 but with silence on what this income would be. Is BJP fixing any minimum income for it or not, has not been known for last five years now?
Secondly, BJP has also promised to extend the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana of Rs 6000 annual support to all farmers if voted back to form the government. So far, only the farmers who own land up to 2 hectares. Whether, it would be available for landless farmers or not, remains unknown.
The BJP has also promised a whopping Rs 25 lakh crore investment in the agri-rural sector to improve the productivity of farm sector.