Saturday, June 1, 2002

Paying bills is not the issue, regular power supply is: Nain
Shubhadeep Choudhury

Ghasi Ram NainGHASI Ram Nain, aged 70 plus and sporting a flowing white beard, does not exactly look like the terrorist that the Haryana government has made him out to be. Rather, he looks like a village elder who knows the ways of the world.

In animated bursts, Nain, president of the BKU’s Haryana unit, talks of Bill Gates, the WTO, All India Congress Committee, role of the Opposition in Haryana and Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, and deftly builds up an argument protesting against the stepmotherly treatment meted out to farmers in India.

On occasions, he utters something in English evoking admiration from the villagers gathered around him to watch him talking to the Press. "He is a BA," whispers a villager to this reporter.

"Look at these people. Do they look like they have enough milk to drink," asks the BKU chief pointing to the crowd by his side. He says that earlier people were less careful about their clothes but they had enough food which manifested itself in good health.


By opening up its economy to multinational companies, India, he says, has surrendered its sovereignty once again. "Now Bill Gates will decide what is the best course for the Indian economy to adopt," he says sarcastically. The farm sector in the country is going to be devastated as a result of India signing the WTO agreement, says Nain. If the western countries are so keen to ensure the free movement of goods, why they are against the free movement of labour, he asks.

Chautala, claims the BKU chief, has said in the speeches he made while campaigning for the last assembly elections that power and water wold be given free of cost to the farmers. He adds that in an agreement signed in January following protests by the BKU at Kandela against the dismal power scenario in the area, Ajay Chautala, MP, and Jaswinder Singh Sandhu, Agriculture Minister of Haryana, had promised to sort out the issue of the pending power bills of the farmers. But none of these promises have been fulfilled by the Chief Minister, fumes the BKU chief.

"He (Om Prakash Chautala) thought that he would crack down on the BKU while preventing any agitation by the farmers on the issue of the harassment of the BKU workers by offering the farmers 75 per cent waivers on their accumulated bills," chuckles the kisan leader with obvious delight at the BKU’s success in mobilising the farmers against the government even when the scheme of granting 75 per cent waiver on accumulated bill is on. "We will not object to paying power bills, but let them give us adequate power first," he says pointing to the electric fan fitted on the ceiling of the room which is not working due to non-supply of power.

The All-India Congress Committee, says Nain, had recently met in Delhi but it did not touch upon the issue of the agitation by the BKU in Haryana. " This was because the AICC does not care for farmers. The Haryana Opposition’s response to our agitation was also superficial — we expected them to support us more effectively," says Nain.

While talking about the farmers, the BKU chief also touches upon the villagers’ grouse. "Why it is so that when a village boy does well in his profession or business, he settles down in towns and does not return to his village," asks Nain and then answers his own question saying that the successful professional or businessman settles in towns because the villages are backward and have no amenities.

He says that even if the government does anything for the well-being of the farmers, it is made out to be an act of benevolence even if the farmers deserve what is being done for them and may even have paid for it indirectly. "Why are farmers not treated on a par with Indians engaged in other fields," asks Nain.