Congress veteran and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who met farmer leaders, including Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU)’s Rakesh Tikait, several times for consultation over their issues believes the agrarian crisis in the country is due to anti-farmer policies of the BJP governments — both in the Centre and its ruled states.

Talking to IANS on Saturday over the phone about the Congress’ strategy, he said the party is committed not only to increasing agricultural production but also taking measures for the welfare of the farmers, workers and artisans dependent on agriculture.

Hooda, who is chiefly responsible for the paradigm shift in the approach of parties towards agriculture from production to farmer centric, advocated for giving the farmers and workers a distinct human entity and dignity other than a mere component workforce for the agricultural production.

The Congress is now committed to not only increasing agricultural production but also to taking measures for the welfare of the farmers, workers and artisans dependent on agriculture. For this, the party has resolved to establish Rashtriya Kisan Kalyan Kosh for this purpose, he said.

The Congress party has resolved at its just concluded 85th plenary session held in Raipur in Chhattisgarh to establish Rashtriya Kisan Kalyan Kosh.

Hooda moved a draft resolution on agriculture and farmers that contains futuristic strategies to make agriculture sustainable and a profitable occupation for the next generations of the farmers, workers and artisans.

The resolution, inter alia, pledged introduction of a debt relief scheme, establishment of a national farmers debt relief commission to resolve debt related grievances through conciliation, no criminal proceedings, auction of land to recover the outstanding loan and to give legal guarantee to the minimum support price (MSP) that should be calculated as the C2 plus 50 per cent profit formula recommended by the Swaminathan Commission and any purchase below MSP be made punishable.

Hooda told IANS the party promises Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima, after removing deficiencies, will be universal i.e. entire area under cultivation would be insured through public sector agriculture insurance company or companies, and to establish a commission on agricultural development and farmers’ income for finding ways to augment the income of farmers, workers and artisans in rural areas.

Hooda, who himself is an agriculturalist, was heading the Committee on Agriculture and Farmer Welfare and presented its draft in the session.

Talking about the goals of the Congress, he said the party also favours a separate budget for agriculture to create a Rashtriya Kalyan Kosh for providing health services, life insurance, etc., to farmers and workers and to introduce the National Farmers’ Protection and Rights Act in line with the Consumer Protection Act.

Hooda was heading a working group of chief ministers on agricultural production with the Chief Ministers of Punjab, West Bengal and Bihar as members in 2010.

In its report in December 2010, the group recommended and the rate of interest on agricultural loans was lowered from 11 to seven per cent in all banks.

Later, Hooda headed the Committee on Agriculture, Employment and Poverty constituted to draft a resolution for the 84th Plenary Session of the Congress held in New Delhi in March 2018.

He was chairman of a similar committee to draft resolutions for Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir of the Congress in May 2022 in Udaipur.

This time again, he headed the party’s Committee on Agriculture and Farmers for drafting the resolution for the 85th plenary session that was held last month.

Party insiders told IANS after the Raipur plenary the stature of Hooda, Haryana’s prominent Jat face, as farmer leader at national level like Sharad Pawar has increased. The party should benefit if his farmer-friendly approach is used to woo the farmers across the country, a senior Congress leader added.

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