New Delhi:

Tens of thousands of farmers participated at the Kisan Mukti Yatra in Delhi. Farmers from Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have travelled to Delhi by train and were joined by farmers from Haryana on November 29, 2018 for the two day protest.

The Yatra was jointly organised by 208 organisations under the umbrella organisation, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). Swaraj India and All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) are among the 208 organisations part of AIKSCC. AIKS had stated in their press release that the decision to organise Kisan Mukti Yatra was inspired by the Kisan Long march that was organised from Nasik to Mumbai in March 2018. The protests are also a part of a series of farmer protests held this year in Delhi including the 9th August Jail Bharo by AIKS on the anniversary of the Quit India Movement and the 5th September Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh rally jointly organised by CITU-AIKS-AIAWU in Delhi.

Speaking to NDTV Yogendra Yadav, national president of Swaraj India, told that the citizens of Delhi have expressed solidarity with the Yatra. “We are being welcomed by a team of lawyers, traders, doctors and a forum called Delhi university for farmers. They are also welcoming us at different points.” Yogendra Yadav told NDTV that several organisations like the United Against Hate (UAH), an organisation that fights and campaigns for victims of hate crimes in India, have also expressed their solidarity with the farmers by organising food for nearly five thousand farmers.

The march from to Bijwasan to Ramlila Maidan was led by Yogendra Yadav and Avik Saha from the Swaraj India. One lakh farmers also camped at the Ramlila Maidan during the night. Farmers also demanded loan waivers and higher minimum support prices as recommended by the MS Swaminathan report. The farmers asked for a joint session to be held at the parliament on the agrarian crisis and demanded the lawmakers to pass two bills on farmer debts that guaranteed minimum support price.

The two bills called the Kisan Mukti bills were introduced as a private member’s bill in the LokSabha. The first bill is the fair and remunerative prices bill. According to this bill the government has to ensure that the farmers obtain returns of at least 50% above the total cost of production. This according to AIKSCC was one of the campaign promise that BJP made during the 2014 election. They also demanded the price to be statutorily guaranteed because the farmers are not receiving the minimum support price (MSP) set by the government.

Speaking on the need for the first bill, Yogendra Yadav said that although the government has fixed a minimum support price for crops, the farmers are getting much less. This was because there were no laws that ensured that every farmer got the minimum support price.

“This is a scandal in this country. The government has declared MSP of Rs 6,975, an absolute bare minimum that the farmer deserves. Government’s own website confirms that a farmer gets only Rs 4,200 rupees. No one talks about it. As for Bajra in Rajasthan, despite the elections, the farmer is getting Rs 650 less than the official price,” Yogendra Yadav told The Quint.

The second bill according to AIKSCC website is about, freedom from debt through a permanent institutional mechanism that not only includes an immediate loan waiver that should apply to institutional as well as non-institutional loans of all farmers but also provides for continuous support to farmers burdened by debt. The government should also take up measures to ensure that farmers don’t slip back into debt through effective crop insurance, disaster compensation and promotion of low or no-cost farming.”.

The farmers began their march in the morning of 30th November 2018 from Ramlila Maidan where they had camped overnight and marched towards the Parliament Street, where they held a rally. Yogendra Yadav had told The Quint earlier that only political parties that supported the two bills demanded by the farmers would be given the stage to speak. In an unprecedented show of opposition unity, Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, Omar Abdullah attended the rally.

Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) told the protesters pointing at the Parliament police station that, “It was this very police station where Bhagat Singh was detained. Singh used a bomb to make a tone deaf British government to hear. If this government does not hear then there will be a bigger explosion. And we no longer need a bomb, we have votes.” Arvind Kejriwal claimed that the government has backstabbed the farmers. “He [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] has stabbed farmers in the back. No government can betray this explicitly.”

He also claimed that the crop insurance started by Central government was fraudulent. “The money from farmers’ accounts are being taken out without their knowledge. The Fasal Bhima Yojana is actually BJP Daka Yojana [BJP’s dacoity scheme],” he said at the rally.

Rahul Gandhi said that loan waivers were given to the rich and the farmers were not given any relief. He also said that the farmers were not asking for any gifts but rather their rights.

Pic Credit : Midhun Vijayan 

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