The angst of the farmer seems to have become the new national agenda for political parties, particularly those in the Opposition. However, as the developments in Delhi's Jantar Mantar over the last two days suggest, the issues of farmers and farm distress have assumed a distinct political overtone.
While the Members of Parliament (MPs) raised issues related to farmers' distress in the Parliament on Wednesday, the farmers continued their agitation at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi for the second day.
"After the MPs announced that they would raise farmers' issue inside Parliament, we decided to continue with the rally for the second day at Jantar Mantar. In the evening, the working committee of the umbrella organisation of farmers' – the All India Kalindi Samaj Central Committee (AIKSCC) – will review the developments inside Parliament and at the rally. Based on the review, our future course of action will be chalked out," Swaraj Abhiyan spokesperson, Ashutosh, told Firstpost.
Meanwhile, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will hold a farmers' rally in Rajasthan’s Banswara district on Wednesday. At the Kisan Aakrosh rally, Rahul is expected to talk on the current agrarian crisis including the issue of farm loan waivers.
Earlier on Tuesday, the farmers' rally at Jantar Mantar was hijacked by political leaders of various hues, who used it as a platform to air their grievances against the Narendra Modi government at the Centre – on unfulfilled promises made by the prime minister to farmers in the lead up the 2014 General Elections.
The rally had started from Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh on 6 July. Ostensibly a farmers' protest, it has now become more about a conglomeration of Opposition parties minus the Congress taking on the BJP government at the Centre. Farmers' organisations that started from Mandsaur had travelled across five states to reach Delhi, to knock at the doors of the Parliament in an attempt to register their grievances.
Amidst the high-decibel pro-farmer sloganeering, countless selfies, and a cacophony befitting a mandi – where heated bargaining settles the price of farm produce – various political parties pledged to take up the cause of the peasants in Parliament while urging them to continue their movement at the ground level. The debilitating heat and humidity of Delhi didn't seem to be a deterrent to the enthusiasm of the farmers and the political parties alike.
"During India's freedom movement, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw a bomb at the Central Legislative Assembly. The aim was to draw the attention of the British and air their grievances. Now, we have to make our government listen to us in the Parliament on farmers' distress," CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.
Farmers from Tamil Nadu, who have been protesting at Jantar Mantar for 100 days now, made a dramatic pitch for their demands by wearing skulls and bones. They chained their hands in an obvious reference to the problem of farmers' suicides, that has plagued the country in recent years.
"Today, we tried to raise the issue of farmers' distress twice in the Lok Sabha, but the House got adjourned. On one hand, the government has failed to put an end to farmers' suicide, on the other, it's killing farmers – like what happened in Mandsaur. While corporate NPAs are rising, the government is not ready to waive the loans of poor farmers. If we fail to save our farmers, we won't be able to save our nation. This movement will continue both inside the Parliament and on the ground," CPM Member of Parliament Mohammed Salim told Firstpost.
The rally, dubbed the Kisan Mukti Yatra, came up with its observations on farmers' distress after covering five states.
"The state governments have failed to redress farmers' grievances. They are not getting the right price for their produce and are compelled to sell at prices much lower than the minimum support price (MSP). The condition of farmers is really bad. It is not the farmers who are under debt but the whole country is under the debt of farmers. We are not asking for a debt waiver but freedom from debt. It is not the farmer that is indebted to this country but the country that is indebted to the farmer," said Yogendra Yadav, president, Swaraj India.
The rally witnessed the presence of MPs and leaders from JD(U), CPM, BJD, Karnataka Janatha Paksha, Aam Aadmi Party, Swaraj India, etc.
A meeting was organised by the leaders of Opposition parties to decide a future roadmap. It was decided that issues related to farmers' distress would be raised in Parliament on 19 July.
JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP, Sharad Yadav, said: "Today, we had a meeting and decided to raise farmers' issues in the Parliament on Wednesday. The BJP government got 31 percent vote share and came to power. Now the remaining 69 percent have to make the government listen."
Major issues driving farmers' protest:
- A collapse in prices of farm produce.
- Demand for better prices of their produce – as they are not getting the minimum support price (MSP).
- The absence of an effective buying mechanism has compelled farmers to go for a distress sale. At grain mandis,the traders are buying at a reduced price.
- Before coming to power, BJP had promised to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report, especially related to MSP, but it has not been done.
- Post-demonetisation, the traders at mandishave been exploiting farmers by delaying their payments against the sale of crops on a pretext of delayed payments by cheques.A rise in farmer suicides in various states, especially by marginal farmers have irked the community.
- The demand for waiving of farmers' loans is central to their protest.
"I campaigned for Narendra Modi and I supported him, only because he promised to waive off loans of farmers and implement Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation on MSP. But later, his government gave an affidavit in the Supreme Court claiming that it was not possible," Raju Shetti, MP from Maharashtra and founder-leader of Swabhimani Sethkari Sanghthana, told Firstpost.
"If it was not possible, why did Modi make this promise in his election manifesto. The government has to take responsibility for buying produce from farmers to redress their grievances, or else the angst will only escalate. The agitation we saw in Mandsaur will spread to other states," he added.
Updated Date: Jul 19, 2017 15:29 PM