Poster in Feb 14, 2024 03:04:52

India's Farmers' March: What Are Their Demands? Why is the government closing the road?

India's Farmers' March: What Are Their Demands? Why is the government closing the road?

Photo: Collected

Farmers are demanding the legal minimum price for their crops as they travel to New Delhi and ask the government to fulfill their promises.

Thousands of farmers on tractors and trucks are marching towards the Indian capital, New Delhi, to push the government to address their demands, including guaranteed prices for their produce and debt waivers. Police in Haryana state, which borders Delhi, on Tuesday (February 13, 2024), fired tear gas on farmers to prevent them from reaching the capital, which has been converted into a fortress, reviving memories of the 16-month-long agitation by the farmers two years ago. Multiple entry points to the capital have been sealed by erecting barriers of barbed wire, spikes, and cement blocks.

Authorities have banned large gatherings in Delhi and suspended internet services in several Haryana districts ahead of the March to Delhi, called by farmers from Punjab and Haryana along with several other northern states.

Who is participating?

Aside from organizations from Punjab and Haryana, unions from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh are also participating in the march as they demand government intervention to help the ailing agriculture sector, which is central to the country’s food security.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM), and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee are spearheading the protests. The organizers said more than 200 farm unions are participating in the March to Delhi.

The SKM played a key role in the 2020-2021 protests that forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal three farm laws that farmers feared would have benefitted corporations at their expense. Farmers have accused Modi’s government of failing to fulfill its promises to farmers since then, including doubling their incomes.

The SKM has called for a nationwide rural and industrial strike to express disapproval of the government.

What are the farmers’ demands?

The farmers are demanding legal guarantees of a minimum support price (MSP), which acts as a safety net for the farming community; waivers of farm loans; and a rollback of policies they say hurt farmers.

The MSP, which is the cost at which the government purchases crops from farmers, provides farmers with an assured income for their produce amid market uncertainties.

The demand is for the MSP to be fixed at least 50 percent higher than the cost of production of any crop.

Farmers are agitating against the planned privatization of the electricity sector. State governments currently provide subsidized electricity to farmers, which helps bring input costs down.

They are also demanding compensation for the farmers who died during the 2020-2021 protests.

“There have been around 750 martyrs during the struggle,” said Vijoo Krishnan, the general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, an organization participating in the current protests.

Another demand is the dismissal of a federal minister whose son was accused of running his car over farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district in October 2021.

The protests also seek to ensure that the promises made by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2021 are acted on.

“The three acts have been withdrawn, but BJP-ruled states are trying to bring them through the backdoor. Even the recent budget has sought to privatize post-harvest activities,” Krishnan said.

Modi’s government formed a committee to address farming issues, but it failed to include representatives from Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, all major grain producers. The committee has hardly made any progress.

In the meantime, farmers continue to struggle with longtime problems. Debt due to crop failures causes thousands of Indian farmers to take their lives every year. Agriculture output has been reduced by extreme weather and dwindling water sources caused by climate change.

How has the BJP government responded?

A government delegation has held negotiations with the protesting farmers, but the talks have not yielded results. On Tuesday, Indian police tear-gassed and detained some farmers who clashed with them at the border between Haryana and Punjab. Police also dropped canisters of tear gas from a drone at one of the border points in northern Haryana state that leads to Delhi.

Devinder Sharma, an Indian agricultural expert, pointed out that farmers have been cut off from the capital as Delhi’s and Haryana’s borders have been fortified by authorities.

“How can we keep them away from the country? From the capital? From the decision-making?” he asked. 

See more.

Source: Online/GFMM

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