Farmers march towards Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan to demand debt relief, fair price
Thousands of farmers from across the country started marching towards Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on Thursday to participate in two-day “Kisan Mukti March” to press for their demands, including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce, a week after their counterparts staged a similar protest in Maharashtra’s Mumbai.
The farmers, in several groups representing different organisations, started walking from five different locations on the city’s outskirts to be part of the march demanding three-week special session of parliament to discuss the agrarian crisis.
“Politicians promise that they will waive off our loans. But things remain the same and farmers are committing suicides,” Ved Prakash, a farmer from Uttar Pradesh, said at Ramlila Maidan.
“This is the harvesting time for our sugarcane crop. But we have no choice but to come here for our demands,” said another farmer from Uttar Pradesh.
After spending the night at Ramlila Maidan, the farmers will march towards Parliament for a rally on Friday morning.
The protest march affected traffic at several places in the city including National Highway-8 from Mahipalpur to Dhaula Kuan. Delhi Traffic Police said traffic was also affected from Majnu Ka Tila to Chandgi Ram Akhada, ISBT Kashmiri Gate and Hanuman Setu. It asked commuters to avoid taking some routes on NH-8.
The two-day march has been organised under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of about 200 farmer organisations from across the country.
It is the second major farmer’s protest in the national capital in two months. At least 20 people, including police personnel, were injured in a clash between protesters and security personnel on October 2 at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh gate border on National Highway-24 when Delhi Police denied entry to thousands of farmers into the city.
Among the five groups, a farmers’ march from Bijwasan was led by Yogendra Yadav, the president of Swaraj India and one of the working group members of AIKSCC. Yadav termed it one of the biggest marches of farmers in recent times.
More than 1,000 policemen have been deployed in the city in view of the farmers’ march. A Delhi government spokesperson said they have arranged around 260 mobile toilets, drinking water tankers and ambulances for the protesters.
The main demand of the farmers is to pass two bills seeking ‘freedom from indebtedness’ and the ‘right to guaranteed remunerative minimum support price (MSP)’ introduced in the Lok Sabha in August this year.
“The farmers will release a charter of demands on Friday after assembling at parliament street,” said Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, one of the AIKSCC-affiliated bodies.
A group of farmers from Tamil Nadu have arrived carrying skulls of two of their colleagues, who had committed suicide after they failed to replay their debts, and have threatened to march naked if they are not allowed to go to Parliament on Friday.
About 1,200 members of the National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturalists Association reached the national capital early on Thursday, said their leader P Ayyakannu.
Ayyakannu said he was expecting more farmers affiliated with his association to arrive from Trichy and Karur. He said their main demands include removal of all farmer loans, profitable price for their agricultural products and a Rs 5,000 pension for farmers per month.
“Our main agricultural activities include paddy cultivation, cotton farming, horticultural activities like coconut cultivation, banana cultivation. More than 700 farmers have committed suicide in Tamil Nadu due to loans that they could not repay,” he said.
“We have no water and have been suffering from drought like situations for the last five years. This year, too, we suffered due to storms. Tomorrow, we will stage naked protests if police stop us from going to Parliament,” he said.
The 20 women farmers in his group will not be part of the naked protests, he clarified.
Last year, the group had staged protests at Jantar Mantar with the skulls of eight farmers who killed themselves owing to farm losses.
The Delhi march comes just a week after farmers from all across Maharashtra marched to Mumbai to reiterate their demands for loan waiver and land rights among others, eight months after they were promised reforms by the BJP government.
More than 35,000 farmers from across Maharashtra, led by Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), took out a march’ from Nashik to Mumbai on March 12 to press for their demands. Their 180km march over several days culminated in Mumbai on March 11.
(With agency inputs)