Khangara Ram Bishnu, a farmer from Rajasthan’s Sewada village of Jalore district, travelled more than 700km in a bus on Saturday to join thousands of others like him from across the country at Rahul Gandhi’s Kisan-Khet Mazdoor Rally at Ramlila ground in New Delhi on Sunday.
In Bishnu’s village, the agricultural season this year has been a bad one in which hailstorms have laid most of the crops to waste and put farmers at the mercy of government payouts.
But Bishnu, and other farmers at the Sunday rally, said the payouts are mired in impregnable red-tape, a manifestation, they said, of the Union government’s anti-farmer policies that began with its plans to amend the land acquisition law.
“Modi government has turned a blind eye towards the troubles of the farmers. The process to receive compensation for the crops damaged due to hailstorm and unseasonal rains is so much immersed in bureaucratic problems, that it’s almost impossible to receive it,” said Bishnu.
On being asked what was his favourite line from Rahul Gandhi's speech at the rally, Bishnu said, it was when the Congress vice-president said that in the new land policy the farmer won't get to know when he was displaced from his own land.
Unseasonal rains this year have damaged over 24.7 million acres of crops, leading to several cases of farmer suicides, shock deaths and distress selling. The farm crisis prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce higher than the usual compensation.
Across the sea of rally attendants, farmers – discernible from the rest by their headgear – were united in being concerned of the Union government’s plans.
“It’s a politics of paperwork and photo-copies, where you have to keep on submitting documents yet you will not receive the compensation,” Bishnu said, claiming he lost harvest worth almost Rs 3 lakh.
“I am yet to receive a penny from the government,” he said.
Raj Kisan Mann, a farmer from Gogripur village in Haryana’s Karnal had a similar tale.
“Officials kept saying kam se kam damage likh ke lao (show the least amount of losses),” he said, before ‘giving up’ on the process.
Farmers at the Sunday rally also slammed the BJP government’s changes to land acquisition law.
“According to the new law, our land will be taken without consulting us, and that’s wrong,” said Jagbir Singh, a farmer from Haryana’s Rohtak district.
The sentiment echoed in the rally attendants from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra as thousands held up placards chiding the central government.
Read: Rahul and Sonia Gandhi attack Modi at farmers' rally, accuse PM of being anti-poor
(The writer tweets at @saha_abhi1990)