India Has an Agriculture Ministry Only in Name: Rakesh Tikait

India Has an Agriculture Ministry Only in Name: Rakesh Tikait

Rakesh Tikait spoke to The Wire about why farmers are still organising, whether they should enter politics, the urgent need for policy reform and more

On the eve of the Delhi kisan mahapanchayat, The Wire interviewed farmers’ leader Rakesh Tikait. Below are excerpts from the interview.

What happened at the Delhi kisan panchayat?

It was a one-day programme, so people came. In a democracy, bhed-tantra (crowd gatherings) are very important. If on one issue so many people can turn up, that indicates resentment against the government.

What were the key issues in the letter presented to the agriculture minister? Have any new demands been added?

Now there are many different issues here, each state has different issues. But the important thing here is one, that after a period of two years, talks have resumed with the government. The last talk was on January 22, 2021, after that we haven’t spoken to any bureaucrat or minister. Now let’s see how many points we can reach a consensus on. Especially on climate-related damage to crops, the government has said they will provide relief soon. And the farmers need relief quickly, as a lot of farmers have been affected.

We have both ways open to us. The andolan is way to talk with the people and tell them our issues, and if the government wants to talk we tell them our issues too. If the government wants to engage in conversation, we won’t deny the talks, we are open to talking. But if they don’t want to sit down and talk, plus they don’t want to follow the laws and Constitution of the country, then we have no remedy for it. We can’t pick up lathi and guns or go towards that way. We use the language of democracy and dialogue. The Constitution gives us the right to express ourselves freely and we want to do that.

Now if Delhi listens at a higher volume, we will come to Delhi and make sure our voices are heard. And since we have left from Delhi, we have held meeting across the country and the reports are not good. Farmers are in trouble across the country.


But have the cases against the protesting farmers been withdrawn? It’s been over a year.

Punjab and Haryana have withdrawn some cases, UP and Delhi cases have not been withdrawn. Delhi maybe a few cases have been withdrawn. But overall there are legal cases on farmers from the protest days. Now it’s up to the police to add additional charges and make the case heavy or make the case light. It’s up to the government.

What is happening to the Lakhimpur Kheri matter, especially as you were the chief mediator and interlocutor?

What is the problem of agriculture?

The country has no agriculture ministry, no agriculture minister. Narendra Singh Tomar is only a minister in name, as he has only 18% of the agriculture ministry. There are 17-18 departments that are linked to agriculture and running it. Today we need a joint committee of ministers for crop planning and linking cropping data, acreage, etc. for the creation of a sound agricultural policy. Today the government has data on caste, religion and uses this data for getting votes and elections. Work is being done for one task only – how to get votes. Caste-based votes, language-based votes, religion-based votes, they have data on castes but no data on population and crops in the country. That is why when farmers’ crops are destroyed – if there is lesser harvest – then they (the government) open up imports. This is a very weird policy running the country.

So what is the way ahead for farmers? Can Indian farmers go the way of the Dutch farmers, form a political party and win elections? Do Indian farmers need to go political ?

We should stay away from politics and pay attention to the andolan and farmers’ issues.

Plus there is not just one party we have to resist. Different states have different governments, and issues are also different, so we have fight them on all wrong policies of the governments. The movement is for rescinding wrong policies of any government.

We don’t have to be with any political party. As for the parliament, there are any MPs who have listed their profession as farmer, they should raise the issues of the farmers. If anyone raises farmers’ issues, we will applaud them.

All this is being done by the Government of India. They want to break united fronts. If they have broken big political parties, then by comparison the farmers’ movement is nothing. The governments want that the farmers should come together. Now the SKM is a solid farmers’ organisation, so they want to break it up. And in the future too, they will do more damage as per their strategy. They want to break the khap panchayat too. They want to make the khap panchayat about one caste group. Our khap panchayats are of the region, with representation from each section of society, but they (the government) want to make it about one caste only, and then pitch one khap against another.

The government also is getting many sakari kisan groups created, who will work on the government’s payroll and do as the government tells them. And that is why the government is promoting them. They will try and get a new SKM made, they will stop at nothing. Like they broke up the Shiv Sena.

They play a long game, so the people should understand their game.

Look at how the country was 10 years ago. From then have we gained our lost? Everyone can make this assessment. If we have grown, the country has grown; and if we have lost then the country has lost out. Which prices have increased and which have decreased. What has happened to our money, bank balance, etc. – have they increased or not? That will tell you about the nation.

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