They are in Delhi for last 15 days for demanding compensation and relief as Cauvery water supply in Tamilnadu is drying up resulting in massive drought. Over 250 farmers have committed suicide since October 2016 as their loans piling up and they are unable to pay the huge debts which they have taken to survive. Most of them grow rice and have been from the districts like Trichy. The Bank officials, we are told, misbehave and humiliate them. Most of them have pledged their jewellery or land and because of crop failures, they are unable to protect their land as well as their dignity hence ‘death’ seems to be the only solace. People ask question how is that a certain liquor baron with over Rs 9000 crore debt from the Public Sector Bank is enjoying life-giving bank nightmares while farmers with petty loans are not even being given time to protect their land.
In their traditional green symbolising their unity they came with skulls of their former friends who committed suicide due to distress and humiliation by the banks and moneylenders, a decision to sensitise the authorities, the political class in Delhi to know their plight. Ministers have come, regional leaders have visited them including Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, Thambi Durrai and made promises.
In the hot weather of Delhi at the Jantar Mantar they are hoping that ‘democracy’ will prevail and leaders will listen to their voices. Many of them have come knowing well that politicians are thick skinned and will value only when they know the political implications decisions but people are visiting them. Film Stars have come, politicians, ministers are coming and ‘promising’ of relief but these farmers are occupying the open space of Jantar Mantar. Delhi’s weather conditions as well as crisis of food, water etc made nearly 25 of them sick of diarrhea and had to be admitted to the hospital and send back to their home. Still about 85-90 persons are still in Delhi, most of them are old persons, both men and women farmers, determined to get a hearing from the political class.
Yesterday, when I was at the Jantar Mantar, it was a rude shock for me when I saw a farmer lying surrounded by other farmers. There were garland around him. For a moment, I felt, it was a death but soon, I realised it was not and at was a form of protest. Yes, they are finding various ways to protest. We may like some and we may not as the farmers too have their caste prejudices. Earlier last month, we had seen Tamilnadu farmers protesting with rats in their mouth, suggesting that they are now compelled to eat the rats. These are ways of their protests to get attention of the political class. Most of them are OBCs and yet very little suport from other parts of the country. We have not seen solidarity marches, support from other farmers of the country except that a few people were in and around delhi came and provide them food and water. It is painful that so far we have not seen even the farmer’s groups, OBC political class speaking on these issues or providing any ideas to these people. What has happened to our polity ? Why this issue is relegated to the issue of Tamilnadu ? Why is it not concern to others when we know farm suicide is a reality and not just Tamilnadu but Andhra, Odisha, Telangana, Maharastra and Rajasthan too. Will the parliament debate on the issue and come out with some real measures to resolve the farm distress ?
We do not know what the leaders say but as most of them speak in Tamil, it is difficult to communicate too without a translator but we could understand their pain. I was able to speak to a farmer who owned three acres of land. Hailing from a Trichy, he had four children and a loan of Rs seven lakh fifty thousand from the state bank of India who are knocking of door every day now. He is under tremendous pressure now how to return that. He says that a big iron company in their region has duped all the farmers, collected nearly 1200-2000 crore rupees and now locked down. They were supposed to get some amount of money but now they cant.
The farmers suicide is a pattern which has not happened out of blue. The fact is with growing new economic model, farmers will find it too difficult as their political leaders will provide doll outs but at the same point of time will do nothing practical to resolve the crisis. Farm crisis is a created crisis to that agriculture goes in the hands of industrialists after farmers voluntarily leave their work. Once the corporate farming concept comes into picture the prices of the same will go exorbitantly as agricultural would be monopolised by a few corporations. Our politicians and government is determined to bring the big corporations into picture in the name of helping farmers but their entry will only be there to kill our traditional agricultural sector.
As Cauvery is the life line, the farmers are now talking of river linking project without knowing the fact how it could damage the ecology and farming of other regions. It is essential to resolve the crisis. Those who suffer try to get solutions from different thoughts. Tamilnadu should get water and yes, there is a need to plan an ecologically acceptable resolution to this water crisis in Tamilnadu as well as other states. River linking may not resolve such crisis. Also important whether such linking will not create more crisis rather than resolution.
While we support the demand of Tamilnadu Farmers and that of the other regions too who are suffering. Government of India should come out with a long term plan to strengthen the traditional farming and must desist with the whole model of çorporate farming’ as a solution to the current crisis. You create the crisis and the you provide the solution which is part of your already planned strategy. The farmers must be aware of it. The farm sector is in distress but it is man made and it need to be resolved with open mind and great sensitivity. Hope the Tamilnadu’s agitating farmers will get their voice heard and their issues resolved on a permanent basis and not through rhetorics and jargons of the political class that use Jantar mantar as ‘symbol’ of our ‘vibrant” ‘democracy’.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a Radical Humanist, political analyst and human rights activist