Farmers on warpath: Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh threaten a Delhi siege
Agricultural distress is nothing new in India: failing crops, costlier inputs, lower prices and droughts have taken a toll on the nation's farmers for quite sometime. Now farmers across the country are set to intensify agitation against the shoddy treatment the Narendra Modi government is meting out to them.
The Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh (RKM), which is an amalgamation of more than 60 farmers' organisations that are not affiliated to any political party, has chalked out a road map for the agitation that will culminate with a Delhi Gherao on 23 February. The RKM represent farmer groups from various states including Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Kerala.
The prime demands of the RKM remain –
– The implementation of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) formula recommended by the MS Swaminathan-led National Commission on Farmers
– A complete loan waiver for the farmers. The MSP formula calls for putting the MSP at input cost plus 50% of this cost
The leaders of the RKM core committee met at Chandigarh on Tuesday to decide on their future course of action.
“We will start our program from 24 November when we launch a Kisan Jagriti Yatra from Kurukshetra, the land known for the Mahabharata – the Dharm Yuddha. The date 24 November has been chosen consciously as it happens to be the birth anniversary of Sir Chhotu Ram, the champion of the interests of the peasants,” said RKM leader Shiv Kumar Sharma from Madhya Pradesh.
“We want to convey that on one side India had a leader like Sir Chhotu Ram who stood up against the British to protect the interests of Indian peasants and on the other side we have a leader like Modi who is out to destroy the farmers,” Sharma added.
The representatives of the farmer's organisations that participated in the meeting said that they would not allow the community to be used by any political party.
“One thing is clear that this government is anti-farmer and pro-corporates. Ever since this government came into power it has taken 22 decisions that have hit the farmers very hard. These include decisions like demonetisation. The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh allowed the police to use third-degree torture against the agitating farmers. More than 350 farmers are still languishing in jails. Modi is the first prime minister who has refused to meet any farmers' organisation and discuss issues related to them,” Sharma said.
Enough of the lies
Harpal Singh Bilari, a farmers' leader from Uttar Pradesh said, “Look at the way they have been insulting the farmers through their 'Rinn Mochan Yojana' where the farmers have received waivers in a few paise and a few rupees. There are around 60,000 farmers whose loans have been waived off by a few paise. On top of this, they are shamelessly coming up with slogans on doubling the farmers' income by 2022. We would like to ask them how do they plan to do this.”
The farmers from Haryana pointed that it was the Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala and the state's agriculture minister OP Dhankar who had stripped to protest the injustice being meted out to the farmers during the earlier UPA regime while they participated in a yatra from Jhajjar to Rohtak. Now these very leaders are talking in a different language they said.
“We will not accept this double speak. Things have come to a pass that we are not afraid of dying and this time it is a do or die battle for the farmers,” said Raghunath Singh, a farmer leader from Haryana.
The farmers have also charged the Modi government of cheating the agrarian community across the country through the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
“This has been a tool to exploit the farmers. We have always stated that the insurance of the crops should be voluntary. Modi had launched this scheme from Sherpur village in Sihor even before the scheme was notified. I have a list of people who have got compensation for their destroyed soya bean crop ranging from a few paise to a few rupees while the premium that was compulsorily deducted from their bank accounts was Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000. The government collected around Rs 21,000 crore from the farmers across the country and the compensation given is to the tune of around Rs 7,000 crore. The rest has gone to the pockets of the private insurance companies through which the crop produce was insured,” Singh explained.
The farmers from Haryana claimed that they got nothing as compensation for the 2,400 acres of wheat destroyed in a fire.
“They say that there can be no claim for losses due to fire. The government collected Rs 251 crore as premium and has disbursed only Rs 51crore in the state. Claims worth Rs 150 crores have been rejected,” Singh added.
Earlier, the RKM had blocked 176 highways across the country on 16 June, they had tried to gherao the Niti Aayog and sat on a dharna at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on 3 July this year. The farmers had also carried out a Jail Bharo campaign in the second week of August.
Farmer leader Gurnam Sing Chadhuni from Haryana pointed out that according to the National Sample Survey (NSS) of 2014 the monthly income of a farmer's family is Rs 3,081.
“Since even a class four government employee earns ten times more than a farmer, the government must explain that the farmer comes in which class. It must also explain why it is so soft on the corporates who have not paid back their loans amounting to lakhs of crores and why is it that it has nothing to offer to the farmers,” Chadhuni said.
The farmers are also agitated over the government allowing import of commodities like wheat. “Why is it that only 6% of the agriculture produce is purchased on MSP and the remaining is ignored as has been pointed in the NSS of 2014. What steps have been taken in this direction?” asked Chadhuni.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen