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Sari-clad women, whose husbands committed suicide due to the agrarian distress, place themselves on the first row. On the stage are farmer leaders from 180 organisations, addressing enough farmers to fill a football field. Holding banners, flags and posters with different languages, they chant slogans such as ‘Kisan mar rahe hain, sashak so raha hai’ and ‘Garv se kaho hum kisan hain’, and ‘Provide 50% subsidy on diesel, save farmers’.
Farmers, from different parts of the country, Monday assembled under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), which is demanding a one-time farm debt waiver and remunerative prices for their produce. Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav, whose organisation is also a part of the committee, said, “Loan waiver alone is not the solution. One must correct the minimum support price figures of the government, else farmers will again be trapped in debt.”
He said that at present, the minimum support price at which the government buys products from farmers does not even meet the input cost for most crops. “We are demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendation of pricing and procurement…,” Yadav said.
The government of India had constituted the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) on November 18, 2004, chaired by Professor M S Swaminathan. “It will help farmers save money for meeting the challenge of unfavourable season,” he said.
The protest started from various areas — Ramlila Maidan, Ambedkar Bhavan, Gurdwara Rakabganj and different railway stations — but farmers eventually converged at Kisan Mukti Sansad on Parliament Street.
There, two ‘bills’ were passed regarding debt and remunerative prices for their produce. Farmer leaders said that ‘bills’ will be placed in Parliament as private member bills by Lok Sabha member Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Paksha and Rajya Sabha member K K Ragesh of the CPI(M).
Most farmers said the “steady rise in input costs, like fuel, pesticides and fertilisers and even water”, and “slashing” of subsidies was putting increasing burden on them. Ram Pal Singh, who had come from Mansa in Punjab, said, “In our area, the harvest was good but I have a debt of over Rs 2 lakh. I have three acres of land in which I grew wheat, but couldn’t even recover the cost. For a quintal, I got Rs 1,580 while the cost of production was more than Rs 3,000.”
Vinod Yadav, who had come from a village in Bihar’s Munger district, said, “The PM said in his speeches that farmer interests will be looked into. But we are thinking of quitting farming. One year it is drought, another it is famine. With no government support, who will do farming?”
V M Singh, convener of AIKSCC, said farming has become a “loss-making activity”. Activist Medha Patkar, who chaired an assembly of 545 women from families of farmers who committed suicide, said, “It was shocking to hear the stories shared by women left behind.”