Protest hijacked by Maoist elements, demands beyond ambit of farm laws: Piyush Goyal

Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal, negotiating with protesting farmers, has said ‘ultra-left and Maoist elements have hijacked the agitation’. Their demands, like asking for release of jailed Maoists, go beyond the farm laws, he added. In an interview to Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi, the minister emphasised that the government is ready to hold further talks with the protestors on genuine concerns regarding the farm bills but repealing them would not be possible as a majority of farmers, who are not part of protests, benefit from these reforms.

What do you have to say about the demands of the farmers?
The leadership is now totally in the hands of the ultra-Leftists. The Maoists have hijacked the movement. They are the vocal group in the meetings and are not willing to discuss issues but are more interested in disrupting the talks. The nation has to be concerned about the antecedents of some of these farmer leaders. They have changed their list of demands now.

What are their demands other than on the farm laws?
One of their demands is to withdraw all cases against the farmer leaders, intellectuals, lawyers, writers, and human and democratic rights activists. We do not know what they mean. There is nobody of this nature who has been jailed. Who are they trying to hold the brief for? They have gone far beyond the ambit of farming in their demands and their antecedents clearly demonstrate that they have some other priorities, rather than the farmers welfare.

Have they named anybody they want released?

No, they have not named anybody.

Are you saying negotiations have not been conducted in good faith by the other side?

When we see the dominance of the Leftist elements in the negotiations and we see that no reasonable conversations are being held, except their one line demand to repeal the laws, one does get concerned about whether they are really looking at solving the problems or only creating unrest in a certain section of farmers.

There are 35 organisations which have held talks with the government. Do all of them have these leanings?
The more vocal elements seem to be the Leftists and those who have in the past demonstrated their links to Left and Maoist organisations. They are more vocal in the discussions and therefore other leaders are unable to express their opinion.

Earlier there were allegations from the government side that there are Khalistani elements among protestors and now you say Maoists are involved. Is this an attempt to discredit the movement?
No, we have never said that (Khalistani). That is an unfounded allegation. It is on record and a lot of questions are being asked about the antecedents of their leaders which connect them to Left and Maoist organisations.

If this is the context, how do you think this issue can be resolved?
Our farmers can see through the efforts to destabilise the movement and will come back to the discussions. If they have any genuine concerns, we are open to discussions. However, for all the issues that they raised in the meetings so far, we have given concrete proposals addressing all those concerns…

If the Left and Congress were so sure that only one method—that of APMC mandis—can solve all the problems, then why has Kerala not got it? If the farm laws are for their good, why are farmers supporting this protest?
Most of the farmers across the country have welcomed these reforms. The Bharat Bandh was not a success. It is unfortunate that some farmers are being misled and given wrong explanations.

You mean there is a geographical bias in the agitation?
No, it is not so. I would say it is by those farmers who have been misguided. We have given an assurance that the present system of MSP and procurement will continue. The private mandis will be taxed at the same rate as APMC. A level playing field has been brought in… All doors of justice will be open to farmers.

You say it is led by the Left, but your own ally SAD quit NDA. They are not Leftists.
They probably did not understand the laws well. They may have done so (left NDA) due to their political compulsions. You will have to ask them.

Government has said it is ready to give a written assurance on MSP. Is it open to making it a part of law?
Congress was in power for 50 years. The Left was supporting them earlier. Nobody then said it can become a part of law. The procurement going on today is under a law. We are ready to give a written assurance if they want. The Prime Minister and the agriculture minister have given an assurance in Parliament. Our bonafides are very clear on that.

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A veteran landscaper on the key elements needed for a lush garden

Some of his ‘softening’ has involved the removal of various pieces of hedging. There’s even a chance his box parterres might go in order to make way for more flowers and organic shapes of clipped greenery.

Current restrictions mean that, not only am I unable to visit to see the latest developments, but Bangay isn’t in the garden either. When COVID-19 restrictions put an end to his landscape design work in Victoria, he flew to Darwin to quarantine for two weeks and is spending three weeks working on gardens in New South Wales instead.

Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ and Helianthus grosseserratus in the pool borders in summer.Credit:Simon Griffiths

He is in Sydney when we speak and it’s killing him not being at Stonefields during what is, there, a particularly moist spring. But his husband, Barry, stayed home and sends him “a million photographs every day” so he knows that the tulips are just finishing (“I missed them all”) but that the camassias are out in abundance.

He’s had word that the Allium ‘Purple Rain’ (“alliums are rapidly becoming my favourite bulb”) will be flowering within days, that the 100 new lilac trees, mostly of the ‘Congo’ variety, are about to break out in huge bunches of grape-like mauve flowers and that the perennial beds are warming up for their main summer and autumn show.

Stonefields By the Season illustrates much of this too. While Simon Griffiths charts the garden across the course of a year in photographs, Bangay dispenses practical advice and reflects on his changing design philosophy, including what he would do differently if he were starting over.

The growing popularity of loose, naturalistic landscapes – in particular the move towards large drifts of grasses and perennial flowers that has been gathering pace in Europe since the 1990s – has been but one of the influences on Bangay over the years.

More borders leading out to the dried-off valley in summer.

More borders leading out to the dried-off valley in summer.Credit:Simon Griffiths

He says he has also been inspired by the growing emphasis being placed on soil health. While Stonefields has well-drained, rich volcanic soil, Bangay says it is made better still with the addition of homemade compost, which encourages healthy populations of microbes and helps plants survive through our increasingly hot and dry summers.

Climate change and its impact on all the seasons is a constant thread through the book and Bangay says that hotter and drier weather means he is increasingly turning to plants that can survive through summer with minimum watering. Roses, oak trees and, when it comes to hedges, bay and laurel, are especially useful for this. He says if he were to start again he would be more inclined to incorporate large areas of gravel than water-hungry lawns.

“On my travels to hot dry countries, such as Greece, Italy and parts of the Middle East, I am constantly searching for plants that do well in prolonged hot, dry summers. They are often native to these countries, found along the roadside or on long morning walks before the heat of the day,” he writes in the book.


After 15 years of this sort of finessing, Bangay says Stonefields has a sense of maturity. His hedges and most of his trees are at the heights he wants them to be, and he says people often tell him that the garden looks as if it has “been there for decades”.

And, if he had to sum up the key to this, what would it be? “Good soil, drainage and watering … along with great love and attention.”

Stonefields By The Seasons, published by Lantern Australia, November 3, $59.99

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