A sea of farmers descended on Parliament Street Friday to press for their demands, including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce. The farmers, who have been camping at the Ramlila ground since Thursday, began their march to Parliament Street around 10.30 am amid heavy police deployment, only to be stopped at the Parliament Street police station.
The kisan rally also witnessed opposition leaders rallying behind the protest march with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal castigating the Narendra Modi-led central government over the prevailing rural distress.
Chanting slogans and flashing flags, thousands of farmers, banded under the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) trooped into the national capital from nearly 22 states with a clutch of demands. Their list of demands include implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report, loan waivers, and reduction in prices of fertilisers and diesel for which they are seeking a special session with the Parliament.
Agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan on Friday told news agency PTI that the UPA government in 2007 did not take action on the National Policy for Farmers, that seeks to improve the economic viability of farming. PTI quoted the scientist as saying, “The demand for loan waiver comes from the present non-remunerative nature of farming and is indicative of the fact that economic viability is as important to farmers as to industrialists.” He said he felt sorry that in the electoral politics, solutions like loan waiver are given importance.
Lending his support to the rally, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said, “Farmers not seeking gift from govt on farm loan waiver, they are asking for what’s due to them.” Voicing the support for farmers’ demands from different parties, he said, “There are different parties here and different thought processes but when it comes to future of farmers and youth, we are together. This is the show of strength of farmers and youth…you can’t silence their voice…five years ago, we all said if any government insults or demeans youth and farmers, then youth and farmers will remove that government. You give food to the nation, you wake up at 4 am to give your blood and sweat to the nation. Nation is not run by one person or one party, it’s run by its women, youth and farmers.”
Whereas, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in a sharp attack on the prime minister alleged that Modi had ‘stabbed’ farmers in their back and warned the saffron party that farmers will “wreak havoc” in 2019 polls if it does not implement Swaminathan panel report soon.
Reacting to the opposition slamming the Centre on farmers’ plight, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh alleged that the Congress is responsible for the ignorance shown towards farmers’ issues. He said that the Swaminathan report has been delayed by the Congress government since 2006 and it was the prime minister who implemented the ‘e-national agriculture market ‘ in 2016 with three reforms. On Twitter, he came down heavily on the Congress after explaining the various agriculture schemes which were implemented in the four-year BJP term.
Another leader to raise the issue of implementation of the Swaminathan report was People’s Archives of Rural India Network founder P Sainath who said that the Modi government had lied through its teeth on MSP. Explaining farmers’ need for a special session with the parliament, he told The Indian Express, “The two bills can be passed in two days because 21 political parties have declared support to those bills. We need a three-week long session to discuss the remaining issues. The BJP’s stance has changed so many times in the last six years.”
After AIKSCC claimed that this was one of the biggest farmer rallies to be conducted in the country, Sainath said that ‘The Long March’ from Nashik to Mumbai march served as an inspiration. Varieties of people have joined in the Delhi rally and police have had to beef up security to suit the huge congregation which includes politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, teachers and students.
Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor displayed solidarity with the farmers and wrote in a tweet, “It is high time that the Parliament debates the ongoing agrarian crisis & comes up with solutions to deal with the fundamental problems facing our farmers. 70% of our citizens are farmers, and yet they struggle to get their voices heard.”
CPI (M) chief Sitaram Yechury also addressed the rally and said, “We will unseat the BJP and bring an alternative, and raise your issues in the Parliament. The BJP’s brahmastra is the Ram mandir. They rake it up every five years, but we will have to tell them that today the marginalised, the workers, the farmers are all united. They misuse the name of Ram for votes.” The growth rate of agriculture has come down under the Modi government as against the growth seen during the UPA era, he further said.
“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.
JDS leader H D Deve Gowda who was present at the Ramlila Maidan yesterday said that government along with focusing on the ‘ease of doing business’ should also focus on ‘the ease of doing agriculture’. Other leaders present at the rally included activist Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Yogendra Yadav, Vijoo Krishnan. Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar claimed that the target of the BJP government was to handover farmers ‘adivasis’ land to industrialists, corporate.
Traffic was disrupted in the city yesterday and today due to the farmers’ march for which they issued a moving pamphlet apologising for the difficulties caused to people that also mentioned the demands they are making.