Hundred Thousand Farmers Lay Siege To Indian Parliament

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Around 100,000 farmers from across the country converged and marched to the parliament of India in New Delhi demanding a special session to discuss their problems. They were stopped near Parliament Street Police station in the national capital, where their leaders addressed the protesters.

The farmers, who have been camping at the Ramlila ground since Thursday, began their march to Parliament Street around 10.30 am amid heavy policy deployment.

The farmers are demanding a special session of parliament to discuss crop support prices, a nationwide waiver of farm loans amid rising fertilizer costs and other agricultural inputs. The government’s procurement agencies, which are mandated to purchase agricultural produce at guaranteed rates, buy only a small portion of total output, leaving millions of farmers across the country at the mercy of middlemen

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About 800 million people of India’s 1.3 billion depend directly or indirectly on farming, with agriculture accounting for about 16 percent of the economy. The country is the world’s top grower of cotton and the second-biggest producer of wheat, rice and sugar.

Farmers from 24 states have also joined the protest to press for their demands, including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce. Some farmers traveled for more than 2,000 kilometers from different parts of the country to reach New Delhi to participate in the two-day protest.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressed the rally and said “If the loans of industrialists can be waived off, then the debt of farmers must be waived off as well. I assure the farmers of India, we are with you. Don’t be scared.”

Participating in the mega farmers’ rally in Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal demanded that the central government should immedietly implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. He said if the Modi government fails in doing this, farmers will give a befitting reply in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. “Five months are left for the Lok Sabha election. I demand that the central government should implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.”

The key recommendation of the Swaminathan commission report was that MSP be set at 1.5 times the cost. For instance, if the cost of producing a particular crop is Rs 1,000 per quintal, the MSP should be Rs 1,500 per quintal.

NCP leader Sharad Pawar said “We will bring in a necessary legislation to solve issues of the farmers in distress. We don’t have numbers, but will do whatever we can do to pass the two private member bills in Parliament”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah as the two eldest Kaurva’s — Duryodhan and Durshaasan — ill-famous for bringing the dynasty down.

The farmers are protesting under the aegis of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), which is a coalition group of over 200 farmer organisations from across the country. The coalition is also demanding that parliament pass two bills prepared by the AIKSCC – the freedom from indebtedness bill and a bill to guarantee remunerative MSP.

Between 1995 and 2016, 3,33,398 farmers committed suicide. That is over 15,000 suicides every year, 1,200 suicides each month or 42 suicides per day.

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