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Farmers make beeline for Delhi demanding loan waiver, better wages

Thousands of farmers and workers took out a protest march in the national capital Wednesday demanding remunerative prices for farm produce as per the Swaminathan Committee recommendations

india Updated: Sep 06, 2018 03:42 IST
Fareeha Iftikhar and Soumya Pillai
Fareeha Iftikhar and Soumya Pillai
New Delhi
CPIM Rally,Kisan mazdoor Sangharsh rally,Farmers Rall today
Workers and farmers of various unions raise slogans during 'Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally' at Parliament Street, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

Thousands of farmers, aanganwadi workers and daily wagers turned Delhi’s protest hub, Jantar Mantar, into a sea of red on Wednesday.

Among the protesters, who were demanding an unconditional loan waiver and a hike in the minimum wages, was 58-year-old Lakshmi Satpute from a village in Maharashtra’s Nashik district. “We have been tilling a three-acre land for the past 20 years. Why can’t the government transfer it in our name?” she asked.

Satpute’s family survives by harvesting millet and rice. “I have six children to feed. My husband died last year after a prolonged illness. We could not even give him proper medicine,” she said.

Shanti Varadhe, an agriculture worker, who had also participated in the ‘Kisan Long March’ in Maharashtra in March this year, said he earns Rs 50 a day. “After the Maharashtra protest, we were promised that we will be allotted land. Nothing has happened so far. I have come to the national Capital hoping that the government will at least listen to us now,” he said.

A few metres away, a group of aanganwadi workers from Haryana’s Jhajjar district was raising slogans. “We are demanding a hike in our allowance. We were promised last year that our allowance will be increased to R 4,000 a month from Rs 1,000. However, we have not received the revised salary as of now. How should we run our house with R 1,000?” said Usha Devi, 45, an aanganwadi worker for the last 20 years.

Another farmer from Maharashtra, Raghunath Chaudhary said that he has been protesting against the plight of farmers in the state for over two years. He said after the ‘long march’ to Mumbai in March this year, promises were made by the Maharashtra government for debt waivers and redistributive land reform, which remain unfulfilled.

“The government has been fooling us. Everyday some farmer in some part of the country is giving up his life because he is unable to feed his family. Death seems easier than life,” he said.

Harminder Singh Pal, a farmer from Punjab, said that low returns for crop has driven several young farmers away from agriculture. “They prefer menial jobs because that is better than dying of hunger. I will not stop this agitation till I am paid the right price for my crop,” he said.

Pal had travelled from Punjab with 600 other farmers who have been staging protests against the state government there for the past six months.

Most of the participating farmers, low-wage workers and labourers complained of unliveable working conditions and alleged “government apathy”.

“The city dwellers have a strange apathy towards the farmers and labourers who come into their space causing ‘inconvenience’. But they should understand that three lakh people deciding to leave their families and foregoing their incomes for a cause is a desperate cry for help,” said Pradeep Pradhan, head of workers’ association from Haryana.

First Published: Sep 05, 2018 14:34 IST