Farmers not keen to back off

- March 20, 2023
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Thousands of farmers, who gathered at the Ramlila Maidan demanding government fulfils the promises it made, say they may continue a long sit-in

Famous farmer leader, BKU's Rakesh Tikait addressing the Mahapanchayat

Over 15,000 farmers from across the country gathered at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi for the ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’ to press for legal guarantee on minimum support price (MSP) and other demands amid heightened security.

The farmers’ demands also include pension, debt waiver, compensation for those who died during the farmers’ stir and withdrawal of electricity bill.

During the Mahapanchayat, farmers’ leaders alleged that the government was not fulfilling its promise made after the December 2021 protest and warned of another long protest if the demands aren’t met.

Heavy police force was deployed during the Mahapanchayat

Nanhe Lal, a 30-year-old farmer who lost both his hands in 2008 in Delhi and hails from Unnao, said, “The condition of farmers has become worse today. The government does not listen to our demands. We are five members in the family. I work as a labourer while my wife works on agricultural land on a daily basis. We have very little agricultural land. All our crops were destroyed during the Ganga floods.”

Farmers having meals during the Mahapanchayat

Outside the LNJP hospital, just over a kilometre from Ramlila Maidan, around 10 farmers who came from Agra (UP) to participate in the Mahapanchayat were preparing banners.

One of them, 63-year-old Pooran Singh told Patriot, “Around 35 farmers’ bodies are gathering here under the banner of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM). We came here to tell the government that promises made to the farmers should be fulfilled. They had promised to write off bank loans, provide MSP guarantee, pension for the farmers, compensation for 700 dead farmers’ families and release the farmers who were booked during farmers’ protest. They want to privatise electricity now, which will have a bad effect on not only the farmers but citizens as well.”

Paramjeet Kaur from Mansa district of Punjab wears a wrist watch of a kisan union

Paramjeet Kaur, 50, from Mansa district of Punjab, belongs to a farming family and has around 20 acres of land.

“The Modi government did not fulfil our demands, so we came here. We are unable to find a good rate for our crop and the government is doing nothing. If they do not fulfil, we will start a protest in Delhi, again.”

Physically challenged Nanhe Lal came from Unnao, UP in the support of Mahapanchayat

During the protest, the farmers were chanting SKM Zindabad.

Women farmers also participated in the Mahapanchayat

On the stage, a spokesperson said, “Farmers are not getting an appropriate price for their crop, so some are forced to commit suicide. This is the government of Adani and Ambani. Just as the government revoked three agricultural laws, they will be forced to fulfil these demands too. Ye kheti kisani ki ladai hai (This is a fight for farming).”

Ganga Bheeshan Bhanvre, 53, a farmer from Beed district in Maharashtra owns 15 acres of land with his brother. He came to the protest site with 25 other farmers.

Farmers during the Mahapanchayat

“We are in a very bad condition. The input cost for cotton is over Rs 30,000 per acre, but the selling price of cotton is Rs 7,000 per quintal. The production in an acre is around four quintals. So, we are incurring losses. The government has eased import of cotton too. That is a double whammy. We came here and met the other farmers’ bodies over this matter. We demand that the government should support our cotton.”

Kalindi, 35, hails from UP’s Azamgarh, where the government is forcibly acquiring land to make an international airport.

She burst out in anger, “They want to displace eight villages. But we don’t want to give up our agricultural land at any cost. We don’t need compensation. The government is forcefully removing us without any notice. Hum majdoor aadmi hain, kaha jayenge? (We are labourers, where will we go?)”

Ganga Bheeshan Bhanvre, a farmer from Maharashtra’s Beed district, with cotton

Sitting beside her, 50-year-old Phoolmati narrates a very dark story about eviction.

“On October 11, eight people from the government including SDM (sub-divisional magistrate) and secretary, came and started pointing at our land. When we resisted, they went back but at around 2 am at night, they came again with force and assaulted us badly. We have been protesting since October 13 there. It will continue.”

 Farmers take rest during the Mahapanchayat

Satyadev Pal, a 62-year-old farmer with two acres of agricultural land in Ayodhya, UP, said that the guarantee of MSP is their first demand.

Addressing Mahapanchayat from the stage, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said, “Miserable conditions exist for agriculture in every state. But don’t be disappointed. If you want MSP, be ready for another big protest. This is the only way out now. This country has turned into Korea (North). Murder of democracy is happening.”

Phoolmati (extreme left) from Azamgarh alleged that the government wanted to acquire her agricultural land forcibly

A delegation of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) met Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Krishi Bhavan and handed a memorandum of demands.