30, Nov 2018 | CJP Team
In a last ditch effort to make their voices heard, lakhs of Indian farmers have landed up in New Delhi to highlight the impact of anti-farmer agrarian policies of the government on their lives. The Kisan Mukti Morcha organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, an umbrella organisation over over 200 farmers welfare groups, is hoping this show of strength will be seen as having the potential to affect the electoral prospects of the incumbent government, galvanising them to act on long standing demands of farmers.
The farmers started gathering in New Delhi on Thursday, November 29.
They had originally hoped to march to Parliament street as a part of their protest against the current government’s farm policies. However, a heavy deployment of police personnel ensured that the protest was restricted to Jantar Mantar. However, they were later given permission to proceed.
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Key demands of Farmers
The farmers have several demands, the most significant of which are as follows:
- Fixing a farmer friendly Minimum Support Price (MSP) in accordance with the recommendations as per the Swaminathan Committee Report
- A guarantee of procurement in case the crop is left unsold
- A comprehensive loan waiver package
- A comprehensive crop insurance scheme. (Currently, insurance firms allegedly refuse to compensate farmers unless atleast 70 percent of their crop is destroyed.)
- A special session of the Parliament to address farmers’ distress
How Farmers have been left behind
As many as 3 lakh farmers took their own lives over a period of two decades between 1995 and 2015. In 2015, the government stopped publishing farmer suicide data. P Sainath told NDTV, “What you are witnessing in the country is bigger than a drought. The farm suicide data has not been published in the last two years. The figures stopped at 2015,” he told NDTV.”
But even a simple trip out of any Indian city, into the countryside, a simple walk through countless Indian villages, is enough to know that our farmers do not enjoy the same privileges, the same quality of life as we in the city do. And yet, there is unprecedented disinterest and apathy about the plight of those who grow our food for us. The farmer is all but absent from our consciousness – from mass cinema, TV, news to government policies. Successive governments have either looked away while India’s farm crisis grew manifold or actively contributed to it.
Earlier this year farmers had marched en mass to Mumbai, but they were made to leave after being given assurances that their demands will be met. This time to draw attention to the severity of their plight, some farmers were seen carrying the skeletal remains of their fallen brethren! Meanwhile widows of farmers who were forced to commit suicide due to acute financial distress walked with pictures of the dead.
But in a shot in the arm for the farmers movement, key opposition party leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, Sitaram Yechuri, Sharad Pawar and others have thrown their support behind them. Addressing the farmers, Gandhi asked, “If this government can waive Rs 3.5 lakh crore loans of 15 big industrialists, why can’t the loans of crores of farmers in the country be waived?”
“Your Bima Yojana for farmers is a fraud. Thousands of crores are taken from farmers’ accounts, but when the crops are destroyed, conditions are cited. This is not a Bima Yojana, this is the BJP’s daka yojana (dacoit scheme),” said Arvind Kejriwal highlighting how the current insurance scheme is slanted against farmer welfare.
Here are a few pictures from the protest. Photo credit : Joe Athialy, Sudhanva Deshpande, Neha Dixit and rahul m from People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI):
Widows of farmers walk with the pictures of the dead By Joe Athialy