Armed with 11 demands and slogans like ‘Ab nahi toh kabhi nahi’ and ‘Iss baar hogi aar-paar ki ladai’, farmers participating in the Kisan Kranti Yatra had converged at Haridwar on September 23, under the banner of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Tikait group).
Numbering thousands, they travelled on foot and in tractor-trolleys, coming mostly from villages in Uttar Pradesh, as well as from Punjab and Haryana. A smaller number came from Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Just before entering the capital, they were greeted with water cannons, teargas and lathicharge.
Through the masses reverberated common demands. “We struggle every season to sell our produce. With prices for all our inputs increasing continuously, and excessive supply during the season, we don’t get the right prices for our produce. A key demand is implementation of the Swaminathan Report. Prices have to be adjusted according to expenditure. Diesel, petrol, fertilisers, pesticides — all prices have been shooting up,” said Darshan Singh (52) from Bijnor district.
Sangeeta Kewat (35) from Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi, who left her husband and four children at home, said: “Rising electricity prices mean we can’t operate our tubewell. Cost has gone up from Rs11,000 a year to Rs 18,000.”
Another grievance was non-payment for sugarcane, which is grown by a large number of farmers in north India. “We had been told we would be given payment for our produce within 14 days after it was taken to sugar mills, whether private or state-operated. We have not even been paid for last year’s produce, let alone this year’s. We had to pull out both my grandchildren from school because of this,” said Satveer Singh (70) from Bijnor.
Many elderly farmers demanded a pension of Rs 5,000 per month for those over 70. “I have a 25-year-old son who is not married yet and we need money for his marriage. My husband and I are both involved in sugarcane farming and are not getting our dues,” said Munni Devi (60) from Nawabganj district in UP.
Other grievances voiced by almost all farmers include lack of loan waivers and a 10-year cap on use of tractors in NCR. However, after the events of Tuesday, farmers said another grievance has been added to their list. “We need an answer on why we were assaulted by police. Each of us spent a month’s income to come here. This is an insult to farmers that will cost the government,” said Ompal Singh (60) from Muzaffarnagar.