Thousands of farmers from across the country on Friday marched from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street in the heart of New Delhi, seeking loan waiver, higher crop prices, and warning political parties not to ignore their plight.
Men and women marched under various banners and with flags and placards in the massive show of strength organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), which was allowed by police to go up to Parliament Street after initially being denied permission.
Most marchers sloganeered against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP-led government, accusing it of 'failing them'. A plethora of Opposition leaders and activists addressed the gathering on Parliament Street, a traditional venue for protest meetings.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the leaders of all Opposition parties stood united with farmers in ensuring their good future. He also called for a farm loan waiver.
Addressing a gathering of protesting farmers at Jantar Mantar, he said no one will be able to silence the voice of farmers and youth.
"If the Indian government insults them, they will will ensure its removal," Rahul said.
He added that the farmers were not seeking a "free gift" from the government by asking for a farm loan waiver. They were only asking for what's due to them, the Congress chief asserted.
"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?" he asked.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also hit out at the prime minister and alleged that he had "stabbed them (farmers) in their back" by not fulfulling promises made to them.
Kejriwal, in his address, claimed that the Centre filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, saying it would not implement the MS Swaminathan Commission report.
"The government had also made lot of promises to farmers in last elections (2014), but it has not fulfilled those promises. And by not implementing the Swaminathan Commission report, Modi ji stabbed the farmers in their back," he alleged. The AAP leader said the Union government should implement the report in five months, otherwise the farmers will show their might in the 2019 elections. "The affidavit filed in the court should be withdrawn and the report should be implemented, otherwise, farmers would wreak havoc in 2019 elections," he said.
Speaking at the rally, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, "We will unseat the BJP and bring an alternative government which will raise your issues in the Parliament. The BJP's brahmastra is the Ram Mandir. They rake it up every five years, but we will have to tell them that today, the marginalised, the workers, the farmers are all united. They misuse the name of Ram for votes."
Social activist Medha Patkar led the protest march. The AIKSCC said it invited Modi to join the protest too. Addressing the farmers, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India said the congregation was not here to just protest but had emerged as an alternative to existing policies. "Farmers should speak up in unified voice. No party is as anti-farmer as the present regime," said Yadav, calling Modi "kisan virodhi".
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana leader and MP Raju Shetti demanded a special session of Parliament to pass two private member Bills he introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2017, seeking a loan waiver and a guaranteed remunerative prices for agricultural commodities based on the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Commission."If Modi continues with his anti-farmer policies, he will not come to power in 2019," Shetti warned.
Rajendra Prasad, a farmer from Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, said he and fellow farmers would vote only for political parties which cancel farm loans and give increased minimum support price (MSP). "I find the input cost is more than the remuneration received for what I produce. And the loan waiver scheme by (the) Yogi (Adityanath) government is a farce," he said. "Modi is not my enemy. But he has not fulfilled the promises he made to farmers."
A farmer from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, Ashutosh Choudhary, said the government should be concerned more about farmers' welfare than building a Ram temple in Ayodhya. "What will we do with the Mandir if we do not have resources to survive? If good income is ensured to farmers, they themselves will build the temple. But for now, farmers' issues should be given priority," he said.
The Friday rally is the fourth major farmers' protest held by the AIKSCC, which represents over 200 farm outfits. On Thursday, several groups of farmers held 'Chalo Dilli' marches from various places in the capital under the banner of AIKSCC. Many young women whose fathers committed suicide carried the pictures of the dead around their necks as they marched.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Nov 30, 2018 18:41 PM