DELHI: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra appealed to farmers protesting against the agriculture laws to stay strong, as “government is weak and it will back down”, reported Indian local media.
“I did not come to show my face for politics… I will keep coming,” she said at a kisan mahapanchayat (farmers conclave) in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar. “We will fight with you. Do not back down, this government is weak. This government will have to back down.”
Vadra added that the Centre did not have the interest of farmers at heart. “The Prime Minister promised that sugarcane dues will be paid… that your income will double,” she said.
She added that sugarcane payment is Rs32.8 billion (in PKR).
“Prime Minister bought two airplanes which is Rs 16,000 crore… Rs 20,000 crore for new parliament… but sugarcane dues were not paid.”
She veered on to an increase in fuel prices as well, saying that diesel was Rs131 in 2018 and was now near Rs197.
“The BJP government earned Rs 3.5 crores by taxing diesel last year,” Vadra said. “Where is that money? Why did the people who irrigate the country with sweat not get money?”
Priyanka Gandhi further criticized the Centre for its mishandling of the farmers’ protest.
“At least 215 farmers died during this period [the farmers’ protest],” she was quoted as saying by the media. “The electricity and water supplies to them were cut, and they were assaulted. They were protesting peacefully, but Delhi’s borders were turned into international borders.”
She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited many countries but did not meet the agitating farmers. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi can go to China… can go to America but cannot go to the farmers,” Vadra said. “The Delhi border is five-six kilometres from the Prime Minister’s house… but the border of the national Capital has been made like the border of the country.”
The farm law protests
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana, and UP, have been camping at Delhi’s border points for more than 80 days, seeking the withdrawal of agricultural laws passed in September. The protests had largely been peaceful but violence erupted on January 26, when a tractor rally planned to coincide with Republic Day celebrations turned chaotic. More than 100 protestors have been arrested in connection with the violence and several are missing.
The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate agriculture. On the other hand, the government maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The laws are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.