September 11th, 2017
Under the leadership of the All India Kisan Mahasabha, close to 15,000 farmers have been protesting at the Krishi Upaj Mandi in Sikar, Rajasthan since September 1. On Monday, the 10th day of their protest, they called for a ‘gherao’ and blockade today (September 11) of district collectorate after talks with the state government failed to solve their issues.
What are their demands?
The farmers’ demands include a complete farm loan waiver, implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, the withdrawal of the ban on cattle trade, a solution to the menace of stray cattle and a pension for farmers.
The farmers are demanding a complete farm loan waiver as they are indebted with heavy loans and the government has failed to provide them with a minimum support price (MSP) and bonus in case the MSP is less than the production cost, they say.
The farmers’ plight
The ban on cattle trade has also largely affected the farmers because the prices of cows and buffaloes have gone down, thus increasing the number of stray animals. The farmers lose their production to the stray animals who destroy their crops at night, thus adding to their debts.
The Pradhan Mantri Fiscal Bima Yojana has also failed to be beneficial to the farmers as it works on the basis of an ‘area approach’ instead of individual farmers. The insurance unit is village, village panchayat or other equivalent units for major crops. For other crops, it may be a unit of size higher than the village or village panchayat level, as decided by the state government.
A farmer from Reengus, Sikar told The Wire, “Most calamities don’t occur uniformly. For instance, in case of winters, every farm isn’t affected but the company pays the claim only if 5o% of the farms in a village are affected – which rarely happens. There is no office of the insurance company in the village, who do we speak to?”
The subsidised electricity provided to them is also hardly of any use as the Rs 1.15 rate per unit comes after a wait of seven years and is applied only till the consumption reached 50 units.
The farmers took their concerns to Rajasthan Minister Rajkumar Rinwa however, the meeting yielded no positive results.
“We were given an assurance letter by the government that it wants to resolve the issues but nothing concrete came out in the meeting. We stand firm on our demands and will block roads on Monday,” former MLA and leader of the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha, Amra Ram, told PTI.
Sikar’s agricultural market has become ground zero for the agitation and on Monday it escalated greatly as nearly every sector that constitutes the socio-political economy of the district including anganwadi workers, traders and various transportation unions came out in solidarity with the farmers. Close to 1 lakh people were present in the agitation today.
The farmers intend to continue the protest for an indefinite time period. “It is the biggest gathering I have seen in Sikar for at least 30 years,” said one of the residents of Sikar, as reported by News18. “What is happening is unprecedented,” he added. The farmers are cramped in an agricultural shed the length of three football fields.
Currently, the Tamil Nadu farmers are also protesting at Jantar Mantar for similar demands and shocking forms of agitation. Today, their protest took a drastic turn as a group of 10 farmers ate their own excreta.