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Farm loan waiver: Farmers’ protest from several states reaches Delhi

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-07-2017 Sayantan Bera

New Delhi: Protests by farmers that have rocked several states reached Delhi on Tuesday with over 1,500 farmers from at least 15 states reaching Jantar Mantar.

The farmers are participants in a protest march across several states which began on 6 July from Mandsaur, a district in Madhya Pradesh where six protesting farmers were killed in police firing on 6 June.

Several members of Parliament visited the protesting farmers and promised to raise their concerns inside the legislature where the monsoon session began on Monday. Among them were Sitaram Yechury from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Sharad Yadav from the Janata Dal (United).

“Our demands are a total waiver of farm loans and remunerative prices, in line with the recommendations of the M.S. Swaminathan commission,” said Avik Saha, convenor of the Jai Kisan Andolan, which played a key role in organising the farmers’ march with support of 150 farmer organisations.

“States like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh which have announced farm loan waiver are yet to implement it,” Saha said, adding, “Farmers are having a hard time arranging for funds to sow their Kharif crops.”

Saha said the government has to intervene with a price stabilisation fund for farmers of horticulture crops like potatoes and onions which farmers sold for as low as one Rupee a kg. “Discoms are protected and their debts were restructured as electricity is an essential commodity. We believe food is of similar importance for the consumer and the farmer,” he said, adding, “The farmer cannot go on paying the price for cheap food. The government is doing inflation targeting at the cost of our growers.”

P. Ayyakkannu, who led an agitation of Tamil Nadu farmers in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in March for 41 days demanding a waiver of loans and compensation for damage to crops due to drought was also back with a similar set of demands.

“The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu had met us in Delhi then and made tall promises. We did not get anything later. So we are back and will stay for as long as it needs,” he said.

“In Tamil Nadu where farmers are paying for the worst drought in 140 years nationalised banks are selling farmers’ mortgaged jewellery and land,” he said, adding, “The Centre cannot put the onus of loan waiver on states as agriculture credit and banking comes under the Centre’s domain.”

Speaking at Jantar Mantar, MP and farmer leader Raju Shetty from Maharashtra said: “I campaigned for (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, I supported him (before the 2014 general elections), only because he promised to farmers that minimum support prices will be 50% over costs. I want to ask him that if this was not possible, why did he make this promise in his election manifesto.”

The farmer organisations said in an official statement that the protest will continue on Wednesday.

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