Farmers to Hold Mahapanchayat in Delhi Following Centre’s ‘Betrayal’ on MSP
Enraged over the non-implementation of measures to ensure a guaranteed Minimum Support Price, thousands of farmers under the banner of Samyukta Kisan Morcha will assemble at Delhi’s Iconic Ramleela Ground on Monday to express their resentment. Farmer leaders maintained that participation of farmers will be from the Northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Bihar. The farmers will press for the fulfilment of promises by the Centre to provide MSP, revoking the Electricity Amendment Act, discarding cases registered by the central and state police for protests on highways and railway tracks, and compensation to the families of farmers who died at protest sites on the borders of Delhi.
Hannan Mollah, vice-president of All India Kisan Sabha, who has been communicating with Delhi Police about the location of the rally, told NewsClick over the phone that organisers were denied permission to hold the rally at Jantar Mantar and were advised to hold it at the Ramleela Ground. “When we told the police that about 30,000 farmers will come to Jantar Mantar, the officials denied permission citing the Budget session. We were advised to hold the rally at Ramleela Ground. In a sense, it is a crackdown on democratic spaces. We held rallies of about four lakh farmers at Boat Club, then at the Red Fort grounds. It is unprecedented that you are now denying them space to express their pain and grief. Perhaps it is a clear manifestation of the slogan ‘Modi hai to Mumkin hai (It is possible if there is Modi)’.”
Talking about the demands of the protesting farmers, Mollah said that farmers are furious over the non-implementation of assurances given by the Centre. “What is the credibility of a government when it is not realising its words as promised by its secretary and minister?” he questioned.
“Centre, through its Secretary (Farmers Welfare) Sanjay Agarwal, had assured the leadership of Samyukta Kisan Morcha that it will form a committee including representatives from Centre and state governments, agriculture scientists and farmers leaders from different unions with the mandate to devise methods to implement minimum support price,” he added.
The letter dated December 9, 2021, also noted that the Union government in principle agreed to withdraw cases by its agencies for participation in the historic farmers’ struggle and it will appeal to the state governments too to withdraw the cases. The Centre was to also hold a discussion on provisions of the Electricity Amendment Act impacting farmers.
Mollah added that farmers fought a very tedious battle with the government over three contentious farm bills which “would have made us slaves if implemented”. “We lost over 700 comrades at the borders of Delhi. Scores were injured and incapacitated during the scuffles with police. Finally, Modi relented and apologised to the nation. But that was only one part of the struggle. The farmers understood that the real cause of their destitution is rooted in dismal returns on crops. To fix that, we needed a law which would penalise traders who would procure crops below the MSP. We are witnessing the plight of farmers in Maharashtra where onion prices have crashed to such an extent, they have to dump it on the roads. The farmers have already waged a struggle there for MSP and subsidy,” he said.
Mollah added that farmers are also demanding one-time cancellation of debt because repeated failures of crops have “broken the back of farmers and they cannot return it in near future”.
“If the government can forego loans worth Rs 11 lakh crores of the super-rich like Ambani and Adani, why can’t it provide relief to farmers who are feeding the nation?” he asked.
The veteran leader further said that we are demanding that the Electricity (Amendment) Act be rolled back because it proposes the elimination of cross-subsidy to farmers. Cross subsidy refers to a system where power companies charge less to residents in rural areas and loss is compensated by entities such as commercial enterprises among others. Elimination of this provision means that the farmers will have to pay more for power used for tube wells and other electrical instruments. The farmers’ bodies have been maintaining that farmers are already at peril given the low prices of crops, uncertain weather and hardly any compensation for the damaged crops; imposition of such a regime “will lead to more suicides” in the already distressed farm sector.
Ratan Mann, President, of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait) Haryana, told NewsClick that they have been holding village and block-level meetings to mobilise farmers for the rally. “We have been holding meetings in all districts across the state and told farmers to participate in large numbers. We are witnessing the plight of potato farmers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and onion farmers in Maharashtra. In Haryana too, mustard prices have crashed. Against the MSP of Rs 5,450 per quintal, the distressed farmers are compelled to sell it at Rs 4,400 per quintal. An average farmer is incurring losses of Rs 12,000 per acre. This is why we are coming to Delhi to make the deaf hear,” he said.
Jagmohan Singh, secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union Dakaunda, told NewsClick that the farmers’ bodies are expecting the participation of 30,000 farmers from Punjab alone but it is likely to be lower given unseasonal rain and heavy damage to the crops. Singh added that the farmers’ bodies are gearing up for struggle on a large scale and working closely in coordination with each other to ensure maximum participation. Singh said the Punjab government too betrayed farmers in the state over the demand for government jobs to kin of farmers who died at the Delhi borders.
He said, “Only 6%-7% of families could get it. We ensured a hundred per cent compensation to the families. However, we have added demand for the loan waiver because banks, be it commercial or cooperative, are attaching the property of farmers against the loan. Farmers are not only paying the interest but also frightened that they could lose their land if they fail to make payments. It is perturbing that 67% of farmers in the state own land smaller than seven acres. state. Additionally, we are demanding a pension of Rs 10,000 for farmers because they do not have other social security for old age. They did farming all their lives and hardly saved anything for themselves.”
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