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Hyderabad: Bharatiya Kisan union (BKU) national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait has extended support to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s (TRS) protest in New Delhi on Monday and said he will participate in the demonstration demanding that the Central government procure paddy produced in Telangana. Excerpts from an interview:

Q: Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s demand for uniform procurement policy

A: It is a valid demand. There should be uniform policy and it is the responsibility of Central Government to procure entire crop produced by farmers. I don’t understand the Central Government’s stand on this issue. We support Chandrashekhar Rao’s demand for uniform procurement policy. If the Centre cannot purchase the stocks, it should compensate the loss suffered by farmers for selling their stocks to traders. Farmers cultivate crops for national consumption and it is the responsibility of Centre to protect farmers.

Q: TRS party’s protest in New Delhi on Monday

A: We will extend unconditional support to Telangana farmers and will stand by farmers across the country. Along with other farmers’ unions leaders, I will also participate in the protest. It is not just this protest, we will extend support to Chandrashekhar Rao’s future initiatives that are aimed at the welfare of farming community. He himself is a farmer.

Q: Telangana government’s 24-hour free power supply to farmers

A: I appreciate Telangana government for extending 24 hours free power supply to farmers and other States should also replicate this as it would benefit farmers. In the name of power reforms, Central government is proposing new rules and there is a possibility of these rules adversely affecting the farmers. The proposed rules are not in favour of farmers and they would escalate power charges. We are still assessing them.

Q: Impact of rising fuel prices on agriculture sector

A: There is lot of impact. Like all sectors, agriculture sector was getting affected due to the increasing petrol and diesel prices. Though, it may not directly impact the farmers, there is lot of indirect effect on the farming practices. Interestingly, fuel prices do not increase when there are elections but soon after the results are announced, prices shoot up.

Q: Exgratia to farmers, who expired during agitations

A: It is very unfortunate that many farmers expired during the agitations in the national capital. We demanded Rs 25 lakh exgratia and a job to the kin of farmers, who passed away in the agitations but there is no response from the Centre to date. We welcome Telangana government’s gesture to extend Rs 3 lakh ex gratia to each family. Haryana and Punjab governments have already extended Rs 5 lakh exgratia but Uttar Pradesh government has not announced any assistance.

Q: On the future plans

A: There are many plans and demands. Among all, Minimum Support Price to all crops cultivated by farmers across the nation is important. We demand a national policy on MSP and eyewash measures by Centre will not suffice. It had announced that a Committee would be constituted on the issue but so far there is no development on that front.

In addition to MSP, farmers should be extended investment support as is being done by Telangana Government under Rythu Bandu scheme. Inputs costs are increasing drastically and all States should replicate the Rythu Bandu scheme and Central Government should extend its support.

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Author: Howard Caldwell