Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh: A year of farmers on the march

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Mar 12, 2018 03:23 PM IST

Thousands of Maharashtra farmers march for six days to Mumbai to press for their demands. Nationwide, farmers’ protests for loan waivers, better price for their crops have been gathering pace. From Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh, 2017 was a year of farmer agitations in India.

Tens of thousands of farmers protested in Mumbai on Monday after walking more than a hundred kilometres to demand better crop prices and land rights. The farmers, wearing red caps and carrying red flags, arrived in the city following a six-day trek from Nashik, situated 165 kilometres north of the financial capital.

A doctor cleans the wound of a woman farmer at the end of her six day long march on foot, in Mumbai(AP)
A doctor cleans the wound of a woman farmer at the end of her six day long march on foot, in Mumbai(AP)

Farmers and farm workers who have Kisan Long March want proper implementation of Maharashtra’s loan waivers, implementation of the 2006 Forest Rights Act, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, compensation for crop damage and fixed prices for agricultural produce.

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Droughts and poor monsoon has exacerbated agrarian crises across states in India, leading to farmer protests. Last year saw several farmer agitations across Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Here are some of the prominent farmer protests:

Six killed in farmer protests in MP

When and where: Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh was the epicentre of protests in June 2017.

What was the issue: Farmers demanded better prices for produce and loan waivers in drought-ravaged regions of the state that recorded a farm suicide every five hours in 2016-17. Farmers were angry because the government neither made arrangements to procure the crop on time nor intervened to ensure a reasonable price.

What happened: From June 1, angry farmers dumped produce and milk on the street to demand debt forgiveness and better prices for their produce. They also blocked highways, preventing delivery trucks from reaching city markets. Prices of fresh produce more than doubled in cities including the state capital, Mumbai.

Toll: Five farmers were killed in Pipalia town in Mandsaur district, several others were injured in clashes with the police on June 6.

The outcome: The protests were called off on June 11 after talks with Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Chouhan announced that the MP government will procure onions at a cost of Rs 8 per kg as well as a Rs 1000 crore price stabilisation fund in scenarios where prices destabilise following bumper crop.

Farmer dump milk, block highways in Maharashtra

When: June and August 2017. The strike started in Ahmednagar district on June 1, but protests soon spread to Nashik, Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Nanded and Jalgaon.

What was the issue: Maharasthra saw a wave of farmer protests in 2016 and 2017, as poor monsoon and rising suicides fuelled demands for loan waivers and fair crop price.

What happened: Farmers took to the streets and shut down wholesale markets, vegetable prices went up considerably besides the state facing shortage of milk. Farmers even dumped produce and milk on the street, and blocked highways while preventing delivery trucks from reaching city markets.Protests turned violent when delivery trucks were vandalised in several districts of Maharashtra.

The outcome: In the face of relentless protests, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis promised a loan waiver, worth Rs 30,000 crores to small and marginal farmers. In August, farmers resumed protests for an unconditional loan waiver, rejecting the one the government had offered.

Farmers from Tamil Nadu hold skulls as they hold a demonstration in Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)
Farmers from Tamil Nadu hold skulls as they hold a demonstration in Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)

Tamil Nadu farmers shock Delhi with skull and bones protest

When and Where: In April and July 2017, a group of farmers from Tamil Nadu stationed themselves at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar .

What was the issue: The Tamil Nadu government declared a drought in the state after the India Meteorological Department (IMD) stated that the northeast monsoon in 2016 was the worst in 140 years. Farmers claimed that their crops were ruined in the drought and the subsequent Cyclone Vardah, and are still reeling under its adverse effects.The protesting farmers demanded loan waivers, revised drought packages, a Cauvery Management Committee, and fair prices for their products, among other things.

What happened: The farmers employed shocking ways to protest, making the national capital sit up and take notice. Clad in green loincloths, the farmers shaved their heads and half their moustaches, put mice and snakes in their mouths, conducted mock funerals, flogged themselves, stripped at Raisina Hill, and carried skulls of farmers who committed suicide due to debt pressure.

The outcome: The protests were called off after a meeting with Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami who promised to write off loans from nationalised banks and offer a revised drought package.

Rajasthan farmers hold sit-in protests

When and where: In September 2017, thousands of farmers in Shekhawati area of north Rajasthan staged a sit-in lasting two weeks, demanding loan waivers,among other things.

What was the issue: The farmers had 11 demands, including crop loan waiver, purchase of crops at minimum support price (MSP), increasing farmers’ pension from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000, tackling the menace of stray cattle, removing the ban on the sale of cattle imposed by the state government and implementation of the Swaminathan commission recommendations.

What happened: Farmers were crippled by losses and debts due to 80% of crops being destroyed by unseasonal rain and the government not buying produce at MSP. Link roads and national highway 52 were blocked by the farmers and there were reports of daily essentials such as milk and vegetables being sold at high prices.

Toll: Reports of lathicharge by police in Jhunjhunu and of a person being crushed under a tractor in Sikar.

The outcome: Rajasthan government announced a Rs 20,000 crore farm-loan waiver after talks with the farmers, after which they withdrew protests.

Farmers from across India unite in Delhi

When and where: In November 2017, thousands of farmers from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Telangana gathered at Delhi’s Ram Lila Maidan under the umbrella of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC).

What was the issue: Farmers affiliated with 184 different groups had joined hands to press demands for fair crop prices and loan waivers. They also demanded an increase in the minimum support price (MSP) to 1.5 times its present rate and better water management.

What happened: Demonstrators marched to Delhi’s Parliament Street, organised a women farmers’ parliament to highlight farm distress and suicides. A ‘kisan sansad’, or farmers’ parliament, comprising members from over 25 states, also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end rural distress. demanding

Toll: No reports of injuries or deaths.

The outcome: Farmers’ demand becomes national talking point.

Andhra Pradesh’ chilli farmers ruined

When and where: In April 2017, farmers in Andhra Pradesh who had invested in production of chillies burnt their produce as a mark of protest as chilli prices fell to a record low.

What was the issue: Farmers lead angry protests as the price of chillies fell to an all-time low of Rs. 5,000 to 6,000 per quintal as compared to Rs. 15,000 to 20,000 per quintal in 2016. Their demand was for the government to intervene in the chillies market as middlemen buy chillies at low prices.

What happened: Farmers resorted to burning mounds of chillies on the Chennai-Kolkata Highway in the Prakasam District. Such burnings took place in Hyderabad, Enumamula, Kothagudem and Khammam chilli market yards.

The outcome:The Andhra Pradesh government came up with a plan to compensate farmers staring at losses and provide loans to farmers to support their production costs.

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