SIXTY farm widows Friday joined the farmers’ protest in Delhi to stress the need for attention to the problems of dryland farmers.
Led by Kishore Tiwari, chairman of state task force Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawalamban Mission, the widows expressed solidarity with the agitating farmers, but said their participation in the stir was to highlight the plight of dryland farmers.
“The current protest is by rich farmers, who own tractors and have irrigation facilities. There is no denying they have genuine concerns over the three farm laws they want repealed. But in many parts of the country, like Vidarbha, farmers are extremely poor and have no irrigation facilities. These aspects of the farm crisis were getting out of focus in the current agitation. So, we have joined the Delhi protests to get the government’s attention to dryland farmers,” Tiwari told The Indian Express.
Tiwari added, “While the agitating Punjab and Haryana farmers have their own concerns about the three farm laws, the problems of dryland farmers are high input cost, lack of remunerative prices, stagnation of crop patterns and unjust farm credit policy. Today, of 1.5 crore hectare of land under cultivation in Maharashtra, about 1 crore hectare are under only two crops, cotton and soyabean. Remaining land covers all other crops. It clearly shows there is an urgent need for changing the crop pattern. While regions like Vidarbha have abysmal irrigation, the institutional credit disbursal gets stuck once the farmer defaults on repayment. Thus, farm credit policy also needs reforms. We support legalisation of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) since it’s a common practice across the world to give subsidies to farmers. Our farmers need it the most.”
Asked if he supported the demand for repeal of the three laws, Tiwari said, “I am for taking the middle path. Instead of repeal, the farmers should seek re-introduction of the laws with necessary amendments. The agitation must not get unduly protracted.”
Asked if he was leading the farmers as the chairman of the task force or as an activist, Tiwari said, “I am here as an activist.”
Tiwari said the farm widows will remain in Delhi till January 26, and they would not participate in the tractor rally organised by agitating that day.