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  • Q. You had an accidental entry into the world of farmers’ movement.

    A. As I said that I accidentally heard Joshi’s speech and was fully convinced that the government's policy is responsible for the poverty of farmers and the country. I started to working with the Shetkari Sanghatana in 1985 and participated in all agitations and attended all meetings, gatherings and conventions. I was put behind the bars many times and had to face a number of court cases.
  • Q. But you didn’t give up?

    A. The question does not arise. I even contested Panchayat Samiti, Assembly and Parliamentary election as a candidate of Swatantra Bharat Party. Contesting elections was a part of agitation and also to present an alternative to the voters. I never won any election but advocated liberal economy in each election campaign. Many political parties offered me high posts in the party and money for contesting elections but I never the ideology of Shetkari Sanghatana. I am politically active and hope to unite all liberal parties in Indian politics. After Sharad Joshi, I have successfully led the movement. The Kisan Satyagraha, a movement for technology freedom, is known as the first pro-GM movement around the world.
  • Q. Needless to say Shetkari Sanghatana is very close to your heart. How did its journey start?

    A. Shetkari Sanghatana was founded by farmer leader and economist Sharad Joshi. In 1979-80, Shetkari Sanghatana demanded remunerative prices for onion and sugarcane, which was controlled by the government. The agitation quickly spread all over Maharashtra. The government tried to crush the movement but in vain. The government had to consider the farmers’ demand and make necessary amendments. We demanded free trade in agriculture instead of alms and subsidies. We were the only organisation which welcomed GATT and Dunkel draft. Shetkari Sanghatana flourished rapidly. It works for farmers of all crops. We have also raised voice against land acquisition for the government projects. We want technology freedom in agriculture. In spite of the ban, BT cotton seed was smuggled in Gujarat. We still want approval to herbicide tolerant and all genetically modified crops. Shetkari Sanghatana has done a great job in giving property rights to women.
  • Q. Have corruption and secularism been a part of your organisation?

    A. Shetkari Sanghatana is very much concerned about corruption in India. We had started an agitation of recovering money taken as bribe form people. Lakhs of rupees were recovered and returned to farmers and citizens, which they had to pay unwillingly as bribe to government officials. We also opposed all pay hikes to government employees. We also offered jobs to youths. ‘Neta, Taskar, Goonda, Afsar, Desh Ke Dushman’ are the enemies if our country. Similarly, we have always been a secular organisation. Farmers and citizens of all religions, castes and communities are with us. Sharad Joshi and Shetkari Sanghatana have always opposed communal divide. We are followers of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and have demanded the reinstallation of Dr BR Ambedkar’s original Constitution.
  • Q. Has Shetkari Sanghatana emerged as a holistic movement?

    A. Oh, yes. Ours is the largest movement after independence of India. Lakhs of farmers are associated with this movement. Though Shetkari Sanghatana is not a legally registered organisation, but the government has to take notice of its demands. After 1991, India accepted free economy. Sharad Joshi encouraged farmers to produce export quality products, go for processing and export agriculture produce. He was appointed the chairman of Task Force on agriculture in 1999 by the Government of India, where he said Indian farmers are given negative subsidy. The government owes lakhs of crores to farmers. So, all agriculture loans on farmers must be waived off. Our struggle for freedom of agriculture is still on.
  • Q. What are recent initiatives of Shetkari Sanghatana?

    A. The key motto of Shetkari Sanghatana is to liberate farmers from government clutches. Farmers must have freedom of market and technology. Only free trade can pull farmers out of poverty. Farmers are deprived of gaining profit in their business. The current dispensation at the Centre has taken an initiative to unshackle agriculture marketing. The Modi government has passed three ordinances about market reforms, which we think is our achievement. We want the permission for cultivation of genetically modified crops. We plan to cultivate all GM crops available around the world.
  • Q. How Covid-19 has impacted farmers?

    A. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the whole world, not only agriculture but also industry and service sector. We think the country was unnecessarily locked down. The pandemic is not that severe as was projected. Our economy will suffer terribly. Agriculture can heal the wounds fast if set free. Farmers are used to draughts, floods, hail storms and low prices due to market surpluses. Farmers’ suicide will stop only when farming becomes a profitable business.
  • Q. What is your take on Maharashtra’s decision to close ‘Baliraja Chetana Abhiyan’ to curb farmers’ suicide in the state?

    A. The main reason behind farmers’ suicide is their poor financial state. Baliraja Chetana Abhiyan was intended to boost morale of the distressed farmers through counseling and financial assistance. No knowledge or preaching can enter into a person’s head whose pocket and stomach are empty. Unless farming is made profitable, farmers won’t be able to repay loans, which is the real cause of suicides.
  • Q. How is Shetkari Sanghatana helping farmers?

    A. Shetkari Sanghatana is not a welfare organisation. It makes farmers aware of the exploitation they are facing and shows them the path to get out of this situation. Farmers in India are exploited by reducing market prices, using the Essential Commodity Act. Bans on export, limits on storage, monopoly of APMCs, bans on specific seeds, crops, herbicides and pesticides are the weapons the government uses against farmers. Shetkari Sanghatana works for destroying these weapons. For example, there was ban on interstate trade of cotton till the beginning of ’90s decade. The prices of cotton in the neighbouring states like AP and Karnataka were almost double than in Maharashtra but farmers were not allowed to sell cotton across the state border. We agitated and the prices of cotton were doubled overnight in Maharashtra too.
  • Q. How we should we prepare to address post-corona challenges of farmers? What is your future roadmap?

    A. Giving total market freedom, promotion of food processing industry and export and inviting foreign direct investment in agriculture will help farmers face challenges effectively. Minimum government intervention in agriculture market will help stabilize the new system as early as possible. It won’t cost our government anything. The government just needs to provide good infrastructure like power, irrigation, roads, and storage and transport facilities. We are demanding total market and technology freedom. Farmers of India have been plundered for decades by subsidizing negatively. The government owes lakhs of crore rupees to Indian farmers. So our government must once waive off all agriculture loans and invest sufficiently in providing proper infrastructure to agriculture. Shetkari Sanghatana will keep fighting for abolishing all laws and restrictions on agriculture trade, property rights, and technology freedom.
By Karuna Koundoliya

A tribal woman farmer showing lights on ornamental fisheries

26 Apr 2024

Dipali Mahato
Ornamental fishery farmer

Name : Dipali Mahato

Designation : Ornamental fishery farmer

Name : Mr Anil Ghanwat

Designation : President, Shetkari Sanghatana

Name : Dr Bindu R. Pillai

Designation : Acting Director and Head, Aquaculture Production and Environment Division, ICAR-Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture

Name : Dr O.P. Yadav

Designation : Director, ICAR-Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur

Name : Ravishankar C.N.

Designation : Director, Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (ICAR-CIFT)



10 Apr 2024

Telecommunications Engineering Centre & ICAR release joint technical report

Telecommunications Engineering Centre & ICAR release joint technical report on how smart technologies can be integrated into traditional farming