Thousands of farmers in a large convoy of tractors and trolleys are locked in a standoff with security forces along the Uttar Pradesh-Delhi border, as they try to enter the national capital. The farmers belonging to Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) had began their protest – Kisan Kranti March – in Haridwar on September 23. Pressing for a series of demands including the low minimum support prices (MSP), high fuel rates, the farmers had planned to culminate the yatra at Kisan Ghat in Delhi on Gandhi Jayanti.
National Highways leading to the national capital were swamped with farmers who came in from places as far as Gonda, Basti, and Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh as well as the sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh. Anticipating trouble, the police had imposed prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more people and holding of any public meeting, usage of any amplifier, loudspeaker, and similar instruments.
As per latest reports, police fired tear gas and water cannons to stop the protesting farmers from entering Delhi.
Why are the farmers protesting?
Swaminathan Commission report:
On the top of their demand list is the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations. The commission had submitted five reports between 2004 to 2006 for “faster and more inclusive growth” for farmers. The Commission observed that farmers needed to have an assured access to and control over rightful basic resources. These basic resources include land, water, bioresources, credit and insurance, technology and knowledge management, and markets. It observed that agriculture must be implemented in the concurrent list from the state list — hence putting it as a matter of concern for both the Union and the states. The reason farmers are demanding a full implementation of the recommendations is that it would result in reasonable MSP and small farmers would be secured.
Cut in diesel prices:
The fuel prices in the country are on a record high with petrol breaching the Rs 90/litre mark in Mumbai, while the diesel is priced at Rs 78.69/litre today. The massive increase in petroleum and diesel prices over the past few months have put an additional burden on the farmers and has reduced the profit margin for them. A hike in the electricity tariffs in Uttar Pradesh is another concern that the farmers want the government to address. The farmers have also urged the officials to provide uninterrupted power supply for at least six hours during noon.
NGT ban on ten-year-old diesel vehicles:
Farmers say the National Green Tribunal’s ban on diesel vehicles older than ten years has hit them hard. Citing lack of funds to buy new tractors and trucks, the farmers have called the green body to scrap their order or provide them compensation. “We are not seeking any alms from the government. We want our right,” said Harmik Singh, a farmer who came from Meerut, reported PTI.
Like the earlier Maharashtra’s farmer protest – Kisan Long March – which demanded loan waiver, this group of farmers has also called for a loan waiver. Farmers have been unable to repay because of crop failures, droughts, floods, bumper crop or low MSP. This has put them under additional distress, leading to many farmers committing suicide. The protesters have called for a one-time complete loan waiver.
Payment of pending sugarcane dues
“First, we want the long promised Swaminathan Report to be implemented. The increase in the prices of diesel, petrol and electricity have completely crippled farmers. And now the government has also directed that tractors older than 10 years have to be taken off the field. Where are we supposed to get the money for new tractors? So many farmers have not received payment for their sugarcane, which has been taken to the sugar mills…,” said Ramesh Yadav (65), from Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district. “There is a rage amongst us farmers. Why else would elderly men like be out in the streets for so many days?”
The farmers have urged the government to expedite clearing the dues to sugarcane farmers. In the 2017-18 agricultural year, India produced 32 million tonnes of sugar, while the demand was only 25 million tonnes, leading to a crash in prices of sugar. As a result, the farmers have not been able to clear their dues. The Uttar Pradesh government earlier this month approved a Rs 5,535-crore package to help mills clear their outstanding payment dues to growers, which are now almost at Rs 10,000 crore.