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Hit by poor rains, debt and demonetisation, Sikar farmers’ stir wins support all across

Farmers seek debt waiver for farmers, fair price for produce and implementation of the Swaminathan Commission Report.

Neemchand, 30, a farmer in Rajasthan’s Sikar, just north of Jaipur district, said the last time their farms received good showers was in 2013-14. In late July, Mohan Lal, 45, a fellow farmer from the district, was forced to crush all onion grown on his 3-bigha land with a tractor. “Onion was was selling for Rs 1 per kg. It was the first time our family had to crush a crop like that,” he said, still unable to come to terms with the decision.

Baldev Singh, another farmer, added: “Cultivating onion is disastrous. It took me about Rs 10 to grow a kg. I got Rs 3 per kg in return.” From September 1, these farmers, along with thousands of others, are observing a protest against the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government in the state.

Started by the All-India Kishan Sabha (AIKS), the farmers’ wing of the CPI(M), the protests have now spread to several other districts of Rajasthan, and have drawn support from parties and groups with different political affiliations as well.

“The issues impact everyone. We are all farmers, and our problems are common. The situation has only worsened in the past few months,” said Dr Hari Singh, a retired medical officer with the Army with affiliation to the BJP. His daughter-in-law Manbhari Devi is a BJP-supported sarpanch from Gokulpura gram panchayat. “Farmers’ debt is rising exponentially. The situation is so bad that a loan waiver will not pull them out of their misery, so we are demanding that the government should implement the Swaminathan Commission report too,” said Mahaveer Singh, an advocate and Kisan Sabha leader.

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Jayant Kichar, a locally powerful man whose father is a Congress leader and a former panchayat samiti chief, said his family is lending full support to the agitation at Krishi Upaj Mandi in Sikar, the heart of the protest.

On Tuesday, talks lasting nearly four hours between senior Rajasthan ministers and a Kisan Sabha delegation were inconclusive, and the government has called another meeting with AIKS on Wednesday afternoon. Agriculture Minister Prabhu Lal Saini said, “There is a need to study the demand for debt waiver.”

The agitation is led by AIKS national president Amra Ram, a four-term CPI(M) MLA. Pema Ram, a former MLA, and AIKS leaders Harphool and Mangal Singh are assisting him. Six other leaders are overseeing the agitation in as many districts, including Churu, Jhunjhunu and Jaipur.

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They seek debt waiver for farmers, fair price for produce and implementation of the Swaminathan Commission Report, withdrawal of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, a solution to menace of stray cattle, free electricity to farmers, and Rs 5000 as monthly pension to farmers over 60, among others.

“The situation created from poor rains in past few years was aggravated due to demonetisation and implementation of GST,” Amra Ram told The Indian Express. “Manure, seeds and agri-instruments have not been spared by GST. Even motors, pump-set, spray machines, electric cables, tractors — items that were not taxed earlier — have been brought under 14 to 28 per cent GST.”

He said the restrictions on sale of cattle has come as a further blow for farmers. “If farming is destructive, livestock helps sustain farmers. Whenever a farmer is in distress, or when there is drought, he sells off livestock for cash. But since Yogi Adityanath took over as chief minister in Uttar Praadesh, there are no takers for our old buffaloes even at Rs 5,000, even though they earlier sold for Rs 20,000. A padda (buffalo calf) could sell for Rs 10,000 but now, there are no takers even at Rs 2,000.”

 

First published on: 13-09-2017 at 01:43 IST
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