Plight of distressed farmers continues as they get lobbed with tear gas, water cannons in capital

The ten days long Kisan Yatra commencing from Haridwar on September 23rd, which was supposed to terminate at Kisan Ghat, the memorial of Former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh and Raj Ghat on 2nd October, faced many hurdles before finally accomplishing the goal.

The march began from Tikait Ghat in Haridwar and farmers from places as far as Gonda, Basti, and Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh and the sugarcane belt of western UP joined the agitation.

The Padyatra or the foot walk was espoused with the aim to make government hear the demands of around 30000 farmers who had collected from eastern and western belts of Uttar Pradesh, mostly comprising of fertile regions of Ganga and Yamuna where the cultivation of sugarcane and wheat are mostly done.

The farmers came along with 11 demands comprising of loan waiver, subsidized electricity and fuel, pension to farmers above the age of 60, employment of family members of those farmers committing suicide and implementation of recommendations of Swaminathan Commission.

The yatra which was moving ahead with a disciplined and nonviolent manner was halted at the UP- Delhi border on October 2nd, where the Police and the Rapid Action Force prevented the farmers from entering the capital. When the stressed farmers retaliated against the barricading, the police began assaulting the farmers by various means.

At around 12 noon on the day of Gandhi Jayanti, the innocuous farmers were attacked using tear gas and water cannons resulting in several injuries. But their wish to end the long march with a visit to Kisan Ghat and Raj Ghat did not fade.

The march then turned into a sit-in under the Ghazipur flyover, waiting for news from a delegation that went to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

A team of farmers met the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and was dictated about the farmer demands out of which the government gave assurance to accept 7 of them.

As the farmers tried to break through the barricades, the police lobbed tear gas shells and used water cannons and baton charged them. The clashes left at least 14 injured, including policemen.

The march then turned into a sit-in under the Ghazipur flyover, waiting for news from a delegation that went to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the minister of state for Agriculture said that the Home Minister has met the farmers and their demands shall be addressed.

But the members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), which organised the farmers’ march, say that they haven’t reached an agreement on the full implementation of the Swaminathan report regarding the minimum selling price (MSP), and their demand of one-time complete loan waiver.

Yudhvir Singh, Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson said that,

We had a discussion on 11 points. The government agreed on seven and didn’t agree on the rest. They said they will discuss those points get us back to us as if it is a financial matter

Farmers were allowed to enter the national capital around midnight after police unsealed the border between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. After midnight march in Delhi, farmers have called off their protest after reaching Kisan Ghat.


“The aim of the yatra was to reach Kisan Ghat and we couldn’t leave without reaching it. At around 12:30, the police finally made way for us and we marched there. We reached around 1:30 and placed flowers at the memorials of Chaudhury Charan Singh and Mahatma Gandhi,” said Bhartiya Kisan Union national head Rakesh Tikait.

As for the farmers’ demands, after the meeting with the ministers, farmer leaders said that while some demands were given accepted, core demands were yet to be approved. “Of the 11 demands, seven were accepted but the two important demands of implementation of the Swaminathan Report and the loan waivers were not,” said Yudhvir Singh of the BKU. He said, “We were told by Singh that these are financial matters and will be deliberated upon later.”

Dissatisfaction and displeasure rose among the farmers as they concluded their rally and left for their respective villages today morning. “We are very upset about how we were treated by the government yesterday. The assault was uncalled for, and the mistrust that we had has only deepened. We can feel no satisfaction from the meetings that were held with the ministers and need to see the results on the field to feel any trust towards the government. In any case, our most important demands were not approved,” said one farmer.

“The farmers remained unfazed despite all the hardships. We have been marching for 12 days now, farmers are tired as well. We will continue to demand our rights to the government but for now, we are ending the march,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Naresh Tikait was quoted by news agency IANS as saying.

Opposition’s Attack

Following a brutal assault by the Delhi Police over farmers, Political Parties made a scathing attack on the Centre over the Police’s action.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi marked that the International Day of Non-violence is witnessed with beatings of innocent farmers.

CPI leader Sitaram Yechury while branding the current government as Anti-Farmers, said that there is a huge agrarian distress in the country similar to the one before Independence.

Farmer’s Aggression: Reasons for Distress

The year 2018 along with 2017 will be marked by several farmers’ protests nationwide, with a few turning violent. The recurring protests once again highlighted the plight of farmers and the extent of agrarian distress.

The agriculture sector is characterized by instability in income of the farmers because of various types of risks such as seasonal change, rising input cost, post-harvest losses, lack of storage houses and MSP. The National Commission of Farmers or the M.S. Swaminathan (2006) remarked that something “very serious and terribly wrong is happening in the countryside.”

While crop production is always at risk because of pest attack, diseases, shortage of inputs like fertilizers, seeds and irrigation facility, resulting in low productivity and decline in yield, the low selling price usually less than the remunerative price in the absence of marketing infrastructure and profiteering by middlemen adds to the financial distress of farmers.

Also, the never-ending debt burden of the farmers because of the presence of middlemen or moneylenders due to lack of capital for short term and long term loans have resulted in farmer suicides as they fail to repay the debt.

Optimum utilisation of Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism to boost productivity as well as addressing the core issue of food security is a major challenge. The MSP and procurement of grains by the government has provided incentives for raising the production of rice and wheat.

The recent hike of the MSP by the government was a promising step for increasing the income of farmers. Yet, the problem remains aloof as not many farmers are able to gain the benefit of the government facilities and policies due to poor knowledge and incapacity of farmers.

When India became independent, the contribution of agriculture to the economy was 50 per cent, now reduced to less than 14 per cent. The declining share of agriculture in the overall economy is a consequence of the higher rate of growth of the non-agricultural sectors. Increasing the contribution of agriculture in GDP will help boost the farmer’s income and prevent the farmer distress.

 

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