Over the past week, India’s farmers rose in protest once again to draw attention to the agrarian crisis – and this time, the government took notice.
The six-day march by Maharashtra’s farmers ended with a promise from the state government, at least on paper, to fulfil their demands, which included a loan waiver and rights over their land. The farmers, who had set out on a 180-km journey on foot to Mumbai on March 6, called off their protest on March 12 after the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government gave them a written assurance that it would look into most of their concerns in two months.
Fadnavis had announced a loan waiver scheme last year, but it was reportedly beset by technical problems. His government reportedly agreed to expand the ambit of the scheme on Monday.
The farmers have also demanded the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations of 2005-’06, which include proper implementation of minimum support prices for farm produce apart from crop insurance and credit schemes and measures to improve irrigation.
Maharashtra’s arid belts of Vidarbha and Marathwada have been known to be a hotbed of farmer’s suicides and have been reeling under a series of crises for many years now, including drought, pest attacks and erratic weather conditions. While this chapter of the farmers’ struggle has ended in success, it remains to be seen if the government will come through on its promises. This was the takeaway for many newspaper and website cartoonists.
Using the tools of humour and satire, India’s cartoonists highlighted the lengths to which farmers had to go to draw attention to their plight and multiple governments’s track records of making empty promises. That the protest was led by a Communist Party of India (Marxist)-affiliated group – the All Indian Kisan Sabha – also did not go unnoticed by the satirists, as the BJP had been celebrating its victory over the Left bastion of Tripura in the recent elections. The cartoons also took a dig at controversial remarks made by some government leaders at the Assembly session earlier on Monday, when Fadnavis contended that the protesters were landless Adivasis and not farmers, while BJP MP Poonam Mahajan said that the farmers had been misguided by “urban Maoists”.