Farmers' protest in New Delhi: Cultivators from across India ready for march to Parliament to highlight agrarian crisis

For the last 25 years, KK Mittal has been distributing free medicines to farmers who gather in Ramlila ground to protest the government’s apathy to the agrarian crisis plaguing the nation. This time, there is no exception. A day before the farmer’s march on Friday to the Parliament, he has set up his free medical aid booth in the Ramlila ground.

“We have been providing this facility from the Delhi Sales Medical Representative Organisation for the last 25 years to protesting farmers, because they are the ones who are in dire need of medical aid but many of them cannot afford it,” he said, busily distributing medicines to the farmers who had thronged around in his booth.

He also said that every year, he meets many farmers who come to Delhi to protest and demand for their rights with frail health but no medicines.

“Medicines have still not reached many villages in India. Even if medicines have reached some villages, many farmers cannot afford them due to high prices,” added Mittal, who feels the pain and suffering the agrarian crisis has instilled in the lives of the farmers.

There was a traffic jam at National Highway 8 as a group of farmers marched towards the Ramlila Maidan. PTI

There was a traffic jam at National Highway 8 as a group of farmers marched towards the Ramlila Maidan. PTI

The air in Ramlila ground is heavy with the smell of dust and sweat, as thousands of farmers begin gathering here from different parts of the nation, shouting the slogan “kisan ekta zindabad (Long live farmer’ unity)" at the top of their voices.

Under the All India Kisan Sangharsh Samanvay Committee, which is an umbrella forum of around 200 farmers' associations across the country, thousands of farmers will be marching to the Parliament of India on Friday. Farmers arrived on Wednesday night at four different places: Majnu ka Tila Gurudwara, Anand Vihar railway station, Nizamuddin and Holi Chowk, Bijwasan. On Thursday morning, they marched towards Ram Lila ground.

Tarpaulin sheets held high in the sky by iron poles protect the men and women gathering at Ramlila ground from the fog and dew in Delhi’s winter night.

Durgam Chinakka, a 45-year-old woman whose husband Durgam Venkaiah committed suicide two years back because of heavy farm debts, has come all the way from her village in Telangana to demand solution to the crisis.

Holding her husband’s photograph held by a wooden frame, she says, “My husband committed suicide last year after he incurred heavy losses in agriculture. He committed suicide being unable to pay back loans amounting to Rs 7 lakh he took for farming activity. Though the Telangana government has a provision of providing financial aid of Rs 6 lakh to the family of farmers who commit suicide, we received no such aid. For it is provided to only farmers having land and we cultivated on leased land.”

As per the records kept by an NGO named ‘Raitu Swaraj Vedica’ that works in Telangana, in the last four years, 4,200 farmers have committed suicide after not being able to pay loans, but families of only 1,200 such farmers have received government aid.

“The government does not accept that the agrarian crisis has caused such a grave situation. This is the reason why it has the tendency not to recognise farmer’s suicides,” says Kiran Kumar, a worker in the Raitu Swaraj Vedica.

He added that many times, the government records a suicide as one due to health-related reasons instead of a farmer suicide.

“The farmers produce food for the nation and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that they earn enough to meet their medical expenses. The government cannot shy away from this responsibility,” he added.

He also said that the solution to this crisis is paying the farmer for his produce as per the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and also waiving their farm loans.

Renowned journalist P Sainath, who also marched to Ramlila ground with farmers from Bala Sahib Gurudwara near Sarai Kale Khan, told Firstpost that the very idea of growth that the government subscribes to is one of the major causes of the problem. “This growth is jobless growth and it benefits only the corporates. There is no growth of distribution and employment and growth with justice. In fact, this is a growth driven by corporate greed. This model of growth is anti-agro-ecological and anti-environmental,” he said.

He also said that the government has gutted environmental impact assessments for projects by exempting various projects from going through this procedure of environmental protection. He added that the Parliament needs at least three weeks to discuss exclusively the present agrarian crisis, which is also a demand raised by the farmers.

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Updated Date: Nov 29, 2018 21:39:33 IST

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