Dressed in a white and green veshti, two farmers from Tamil Nadu danced to a number sung by three farmers from Bihar on agrarian crisis. They barely understood each other, but at Ramlila Maidan on Thursday, they were “brothers” by fate, bound by the same crisis.
From several points in the capital — Majnu Ka Tila, Anand Vihar, Sarai Kale Khan and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, among others – the farmers began their walk to Ramlila Maidan Thursday morning, demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Report, loan waivers, and reduction in prices of fertilisers and diesel.
“Agrarian economy is in a mess…farmers are suffering the most. The government says it will develop agrarian economy through MNCs, but that is not the solution,” said Dr Ashish Mittal, general secretary of All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha.
A cultural programme in the evening saw Bhangra and gidda performances, poetry, and street theatre acts by groups.
A mini truck full of bananas, a food stall, a group of doctors, and portable toilets were some of the arrangements made for the farmers. “Delhi government has helped a lot. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told me he would greet the farmers himself, that they were welcome to the capital… All arrangement have been extended by the Delhi government,” said P Sainath, founder-editor of People’s Archive of Rural India, adding that the march received a good middle class support from students, scientists, bureaucrats, and doctors.
From Pilibhit, UP, came Sarvan Singh (75) and Kalwant Singh (70), wrapped in shawls. “We have our own land, but we have debts of Rs 3 and 6 lakh each. The fertiliser rates are high, we are unable to sell sugarcane,” said Kalwant. At 80, Chhetta Lal from Pilibhit has been unable to retire as a farmer. “I was at the protest last year also and went back with hope…I have a loan of Rs 2 lakh and have been unable to pay back,” he said. Chhagan Gamit (40) And Alish Gamit (22) from Tapi, Gujarat, said: “The land we till is ours, but we don’t have the papers to prove it. We’ve been cultivating it for generations. Why is the government not giving it to us?”