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Thousands of farmers march across India, demand 'comprehensive' loan waiver

By Harsh Thakor* 

Responding to the the call of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), thousands of farmers, supported by workers, students, youth, women and ordinary people, have staged foot-marches and rallies all over the country to register their protest against the “anti-farmer” BJP-led Union government. Protest gatherings engulfed 25 state capitals, more than 300 district headquarters and numerous tehsil headquarters.
Rallies were staged in cities of Chandigarh, Lucknow, Patna,Kolkata, Trivandrum, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bhopal and Jaipur, comprising a total of around five lakh persons. In all, 3,000 protests led by 33 organisations forming SKM were held all over India.
More than five million people poured out on the streets to join the ‘Raj Bhawan Chalo’ or ‘March to Raj Bhawan’ call of SKM, sending memorandum of demand of farmers to the President of India through state governors, seeking her intervene to stop the anti-farmer activity of the ruling party at the Centre.
It was on 26 November in 2020 that the SKM had launched the historic Delhi Chalo movement, which marked the world’s longest and largest farmers’ movement, and crystallised a historic triumph of farmers from the depths of adversity against the corporate-political nexus to displace farmers from their land and livelihood.
The three farm laws, which sparked the historic farmers’ rebellion, were meant to liberalise India’s agriculture markets on behalf of the World Trade Organisaation (WTO) and open it to big national and international corporations. Farmers and farmers’ unions had interpreted these laws as an attack on their livelihoods and identity.
Thousands of farmers had marched from their villages on tractors and trolleys, and camped on highways at the borders leading to Delhi. Amidst a raging Covid-19 pandemic, farmers heroically sustained their struggle demanding repeal of the three laws along with the legal guarantee of MSP for all crops, and compelled the Union government retreat. On 19 November 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew the three farm laws.
The memorandum submitted addressed to the President by the farmers following the march to the Raj Bhawans said:
“On the occasion of the Constitution Day, farmers across India, through the Governors of their respective states, are reminding you of the promises made by the Union Government to the farmers. As you will be aware, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, in a letter to the Union Government dated 21 November 2021, had drawn the attention of the Government towards its six pending demands.
“In response to this, on 9 December 2021, Mr Sanjay Aggarwal, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, wrote a letter (Secretary/ AFW/ 2021/ Miss/1) to the Samyukta Kisan Morcha. In this letter, he gave assurance on behalf of the Government on many issues, and urged the withdrawal of the movement. Relying on this letter of the Government, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha decided to lift the Morchas on the border of Delhi and all the protest demonstrations on 11 December 2021. Over eleven months later, the Union government has not fulfilled the promises made to the farmers.”
The “March to Raj Bhawans” marked the beginning of the next phase of the farmers’ protest till all the demands, including “Karz Mukti - Poora Daam” “Freedom from Indebtedness and Full Remunerative Price”, are fulfilled by the government. The farmers’ demands include
  • Legally guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) at C2+50% for all produce for all farmers.
  • Freedom from indebtedness through a comprehensive loan waiver scheme.
  • Withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022.
  • Dismissal and legal action against Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni, who is accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre of farmers and a journalist.
  • Comprehensive and effective crop insurance scheme to speedily compensate farmers for crop loss due to natural calamities.
  • Farmers' pension of Rs 5,000 per month to all marginal, small and medium scale farmers and agricultural workers.
  • Withdrawal of all false cases registered against farmers during the farmers’ movement.
  • Payment of compensation to families of all farmers who were martyred during Farmers’ Movement, along with the major local demands of the respective states.
---
*Freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India

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