National Farmers’ Day, or Kisan Diwas, is celebrated across the country on December 23 to honour India’s farmers and mark the birth anniversary of the nation’s fifth prime minister, Choudhary Charan Singh.
This year, Kisan Diwas takes place against the backdrop of intensifying farmers’ protests on the borders of the national capital. Lakhs of farmers from across India have joined the movement — now entering its second month — against the BJP-led government’s controversial farm laws.
But, why is December 23 celebrated as National Farmers’ Day?
In 2001, the government decided to recognise Choudhary Charan Singh’s contribution to the agriculture sector and welfare of farmers by celebrating his birth anniversary as Kisan Diwas.
Since then, December 23 has been observed as National Farmers’ Day. Generally, awareness campaigns and drives are organised across the country to educate people on the role of farmers and their contribution to the economy.
Who was Chaudhary Charan Singh and what was his connection with farmers?
Chaudhary Charan Singh, who briefly served as prime minister between 1979 and 1980, is widely regarded as one of the country’s most famous peasant leaders. He was known for his pioneering work to promote the welfare of farmers and the agricultural sector.
Charan Singh was no stranger to the struggles faced by the Indian farmer. He was born in to a middle-class peasant family in Uttar Pradesh on December 23, 1902. Greatly influenced by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, he took an active part in the fight for independence. After that, his political career largely focused on socialism in rural India.
Charan Singh served twice as chief minister of India’s biggest agrarian state, Uttar Pradesh, where he played a major role in shaping land reforms. He was behind several major farmer-forward Bills, including the Land Utilisation Bill of 1939 and the Debt Redemption Bill in 1939.
While serving as agriculture minister in 1952, he led UP in its efforts to abolish the zamindari system. In fact, he went on to draft the UP Zamindari and Land Reforms Bill himself.
On 23 December, 1978, he founded the Kisan Trust — a non-political, non-profit making body — with the aim of educating India’s rural masses against injustice, and fostering solidarity among them.
Why is Kisan Diwas different this year?
This year, Kisan Diwas is being observed amidst farmers’ protests against the Centre’s three contentious agricultural reform laws. Farmers believe the laws will promote private investment in the agriculture sector. Several also fear the deregulation will end up hurting small and poor farmers by weakening the government’s Minimum Support Price (MSP) system.
Addressing a press conference last week, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait urged people to support farmers by not cooking lunch for a day on Kisan Diwas. On Monday, farmers observed a day-long relay hunger strike at protest sites in Delhi, including at the Singhu border.
Several farmers also reportedly visited ‘Kisan Ghat’, the memorial Charan Singh, to pay their respects on the occasion.
Kisan Diwas: What have leaders said to mark the occasion?
Several leaders, including Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, took to social media to extend their wishes on National Farmers’ Day.
#किसानदिवस के अवसर पर देश को भोजन उपलब्ध कराने वाले अन्नदाताओं के प्रति आभार..
कोविड महामारी के दौरान भी किसान भाइयों ने परिश्रम करके अनाज का रिकॉर्ड उत्पादन किया है। कृषि वैज्ञानिकों समेत हम सबका प्रयास होना चाहिए कि कृषि की पैदावार बढ़े व हमारे किसानों की आमदनी में वृद्धि हो।
— Vice President of India (@VPSecretariat) December 23, 2020
आज किसान दिवस के अवसर मैं देश के सभी अन्नदाताओं का अभिनंदन करता हूँ। उन्होंने देश को खाद्य सुरक्षा का कवच प्रदान किया है।
कृषि क़ानूनों को लेकर कुछ किसान आंदोलनरत हैं। सरकार उनसे पूरी संवेदनशीलता के साथ बात कर रही है। मैं आशा करता हूँ कि वे जल्द ही अपने आंदोलन को वापिस लेगें।
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) December 23, 2020