India has been witnessing a million mutinies each day. There is either a clarion call for a massive Ram temple at Ayodhya or better standards of living for the farming community. The farmers in India have said that Ayodhya may not be that big an issue, but agrarian distress is something that needs immediate redressal.
Speaking to newsmen ahead of the agitation where the farmers marched to Parliament, the agriculture community made it amply clear that either the problems they face are addressed or the government of the day face a tough verdict next election in 2019. Some even went to the extent of saying that the current regime will be uprooted from power. The farmers were vociferous in their appeal on TV channels.
Thousands have hit the streets under the banner of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). Many of whom have braved chilly nights to drive home a point. Farmers want the current regime to pass a legislation to guarantee remunerative prices and debt relief.
As many as 100,000 farmers, according to Indian media estimates, arrived in the capital Thursday night. More than 200 farmer groups were part of the protest.
All this even as the opposition has got a solid point to unite and train guns against the government ahead of the next general election. The Indian National Congress, meanwhile is going hammer and tongs to project itself as a party that stands with farmers.
Not surprisingly angry peasants in Madhya Pradesh are a worry, given, an agitation had turned violent last year in Mandsaur causing heartburn for the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.
In Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh farmers aren’t any happier either.
In Maharashtra as well, a massive farmers’ stir in March captured headlines — with farmers from across the state marching on foot to Mumbai for days.
The protests by the farmers come at a time when the state elections are happening in 5 states and the general elections are just six months away.
This is the second such protest to be held in two months in the capital. This when the PM is in Argentina to attend the G-20 summit.
Even as the government intends to follow a wait and watch approach, the anger of the agrarian community has consistently been a cause of concern for the ruling BJP.
A protest in Delhi early October led to unruly scenes after farmers were stopped at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border.
In the fiercest attack on the government, Congress President, Rahul Gandhi in a farmers rally said, “ If Anil Ambani can be given Rs 30,000crore of Air Force money, if 15 of your friends can be forgiven Rs 3.5 lakh crore worth of [bad] loans, then for our hard work, blood and sweat, whycannot our farm loans be waived?”
Following suit Kejriwal arrived to echo his words. He said, “Farmers are only asking for their due and for the government to keep its promises.”
In the massive Opposition show of strength, the parties who recorded their presence were Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Trinamool Congress Party, Telegu Desam Party, National Conference as well as the Communist Parties. The show of strength was as diverse as former Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and former MP Sharad Yadav along with young leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mewani.
Interestingly India’s agriculture sector employs nearly half of India’s 1.3 billion people, but it makes up only about 15 percent of the country’s economy says a recent news report.
The farmers bother emanates from the fact that low food prices have depressed rural incomes and farmers are frustrated.
The mandate of the farmer though remains significant because last election Modi won owing to the farmers decision to give him a chance.
The issues with farmers have been longstanding. The biggest effort came in 2004, with a national commission that issued five reports on how to help Indians working in agriculture.
According to data, more than 142,000 farmers committed suicide in India in ten years leading up to 2016, with drought and lack of insurance making things more difficult for farmers in Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, says a news piece.
Reports suggest – farmers have sought a special Parliamentary session to address and pass two Kisan Mukti Bills that make clear the need for MSP to be made legal requirement, government buying all harvested crops, reinforcing a new debt relief commission to hold off debt recovery for up to three years in distressed areas, and reschedule and waive certain loans.