Eye on Maharashtra polls, Shiv Sena to rally around farmers

Ahead of the state Assembly elections, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will lead a protest against a private insurance company in Mumbai against the non-payment of crop insurance claims of farmers in Maharashtra.

Stepping up its attack on poor implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), Thackeray, along with Sena leaders and office-bearers, will march to a private insurance company’s office in Bandra-Kurla Complex on July 17. This will be one of the first times Thackeray will lead an agitation from the front, which points to the party’s preparation for the Assembly polls.

The Shiv Sena chief also demanded an independent agriculture commission to resolve agriculture-related issues. He said he could take up the issues directly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I have repeatedly said that the two schemes [farm loan waiver and PMFBY] are very good, but they do not reach the beneficiaries as they should. Even today, at our help centers, we receive complaints of non-payment of claims. As a warning to all the insurance companies, the Shiv Sena will take a morcha to an insurance company’s office in Bandra-Kurla Complex,” Thackeray told reporters at Sena headquarters in Dadar.

The Sena said there is a scope for “improvement” in the mechanism and working of the Centre’s crop insurance scheme. “We demand an independent agriculture commission, with powers to deal with agriculture-related issues. The commission should be empowered to rectify the loopholes in various schemes meant for the sector. Governments come and go, but the official machinery remains the same,” Thackeray said.

Earlier this month, Hindustan Times had reported the Sena would demand an agrarian welfare commission, on the lines of human rights commission. The recommendation came after Thackeray met journalist and agriculture expert P Sainath on July 3. Thackeray said the protest will serve as a warning to all other insurance companies in the state. The Sena chief said this is a “symbolic” protest, for other private insurers to complete payment of claims at the earliest. After rising complaints of non-payment of insurance claims by private companies surfaced, the Sena chief had warned insurers to resolve the claims of farmers or face ‘Sena style’ action.

Senior Maharashtra Congress leader and former chief minister Ashok Chavan called it a “political stunt” ahead of the elections. “If a party in power is resorting to morchas, it speaks a lot about the failure of the government. Being a part of the government, it is their duty to ensure all schemes reach people,” he said.

Political analyst Prakash Bal said the move is to project the Shiv Sena as a separate entity from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “It is a political move. The Shiv Sena had taken up farmers’ issues before the Lok Sabha elections as well. Now, they want to show that they are more concerned about farmers. How this will impact their alliance [with the BJP] or votes is not known yet. But they want to show that they are more concerned about farmers than the BJP. Issues around the crop insurance scheme have been simmering in rural Maharashtra for a couple of years now. This [the protest] is just for votes,” Bal said.

First Published:
Jul 12, 2019 01:04 IST

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