Farmers from all over the country arrived in Delhi on Thursday for a two-day protest against the Narendra Modi government’s reported failure to address their concerns, including lack of debt relief and remunerative prices for produce.
The protestors gathered at Sabzi Mandi in North Delhi and the railway stations in Anand Vihar, Nizamuddin and Bijwasan and walked towards Ramlila Maidan, ANI reported. On Friday, they will march to Parliament.
Farmers belonging to 200 groups and represented by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, which is affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), are in the city. Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Madhur Verma put the number of protestors between 12,000 and 15,000, the Hindustan Times reported.
The farmers want the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Committee report, increased minimum support price and a special joint Parliament session to discuss agrarian distress and two Bills – the Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018, and the Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018.
“At Parliament Street, farmer leaders will speak on agrarian issues,” said All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee Convenor Hannan Mollah. “Leaders of different political parties barring the Bharatiya Janata Party will address the gathering.”
All India Kisan Sabha Secretary Atul Anjaan said all senior Opposition leaders, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi and the chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal, have been invited to address the protestors. “To counter agrarian distress, the first step of the government should be waiving farmers’ loans,” said Anjaan. “A National Debt Relief Commission for farmers has also to be set up.”
A group of farmers from Tamil Nadu carrying skulls of two of their colleagues who have allegedly committed suicide arrived in the city on Thursday and threatened to march naked if they are stopped from walking to Parliament, PTI reported. “Tomorrow, we will stage naked protests if police stop us from going to Parliament,” said their leader P Ayyakannu.
Friday’s march will be the second major farmers’ protest in the national Capital in as many months. On October 2, seven policemen were injured as security forces used water cannons and fired tear gas shells to stop farmers from entering the national Capital. The protests were called off the following day.
More than 20,000 farmers from across Maharashtra marched to Mumbai last week, demanding that the state government implement the measures it had promised in 2017, including a farm loan waiver. They had organised a similar protest march in March.
Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani criticised the Modi government’s attitude towards farmers. “Prime Minister, tell the nation if you, during your tenure as chief minister or prime minister, have ever visited the family of any of the farmers who have committed suicide because of the agrarian crisis,” Mevani tweeted.
The Vadgam legislator demanded a special session in Parliament to discuss the farmer’s situation. He asked the public to support the protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s “complete indifference and callous attitude towards farmers’ plight”.
Former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar also called for support for the protest. “The farmers of the country have had to come on the streets to get the Parliament’s attention,” Kumar said.