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Sikar victory a sign of changing times

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Sikar victory a sign of changing times
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The hard-earned victory of the farmers in Rajasthan against the anti-people policies of the Sangh Parivar governments at the Centre and the states is a clear indicator of India’s current scenario as well as its future.

The economic reforms and development programs that were implemented as per the directions of the Centre adversely impacted the farmers landing them in misery. When the peasantry backed by all sections of the society took to the streets and continued to protest relentlessly despite all the pressure tactics of the government machinery, Vasundhara Raje Scindia’s BJP government has finally been compelled to agree to their demands. The peasantry in Rajasthan’s Sikar district and its premises took to days-long agitation led by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) raising a list of eleven demands such as waving off farm loans, implementing the recommendations made by Swaminathan Commission for deciding the price for crops, lifting the stringent ban on the sale of cattle, increasing farmer pension from Rs 500 to Rs 2000, withdrawing hike in electricity charges for drip irrigation and payment of scholarship for students with arrears.

The protest that began on July 17 calling for the shutdown of all shops and markets till afternoon quickly snowballed into a massive protest with thousands occupying the area outside agriculture produce market in Sikar, blocking the highways and markets and causing trouble to commuters. The agitators who adopted Gandhiji’s principle of Ahimsa (non-violence) continued their unrelenting struggle. People from all sections of the society such as the trade unions in the Sikar district that relies only on farming, organisations of government employees, women including the Anganwadi workers and DJ parties that add glamour to wedding celebrations, came out in the support of farmers’ demands. The protestors didn’t bow down even when the government imposed Section 144 deploying the army and disabling mobile and internet services in the entire district. The Vasundhara Raje administration was compelled to agree to the demands after an 11-hours long marathon meeting with the protestors. It’s the 8 lakh farmers who will benefit if the farm loans are waved off. The BJP government that formed an expert panel for the purpose has sought the assistance of the Centre to decide on the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

The protest is huge setback as well for BJP’s cow politics. According to the 19th Indian Livestock Census of 2012, Rajasthan has the highest number of livestock in India. But when the growth of cattle population that was 15.3 per cent in 2003-2007, plummeted to 1.9 per cent the next five years, one could gauge the depth of the crisis. The farmers complain about their lives coming to a dead end and turning them destitute with the BJP government banning cow slaughter and sale in 1995. Earlier, they used to get elated anticipating an income somewhere between 20, 000 – 30, 000 seeing a calf delivered. The Nagaur cattle fair that was Asia’s biggest cattle market have now lost its sheen. When the ban on sale and slaughter of camels came into effect in 2015, the number of camels for Pushkar cattle fair, one of the world’s largest camel fairs, came down from 40, 000 to 2, 500. It’s not only the thousands of farmers who are pushed into misery when the agricultural wealth decline one after another but also a significant amount of the state’s population that heavily relies on them. The agitators had demanded a firm assurance in the matter as well. The government has agreed to the demands including relaxing the restriction in the sale of cattle and providing shelter for the roving cattle as well as reducing the ban on sale of calves from three years to two years.

Although the national mainstream media that overflows with praises for the so called development and idiotic reforms by Modi and the BJP, fails to cover the happenings, the frequent farmer agitations cropping up in the ‘Cow Belt’ shows that in the states where BJP gained supremacy by unleashing communal hatred, the governance has been a complete failure and the lives of citizens, miserable. The recent protests in different states prove that the projects and schemes that are announced with the support of the media spending hefty amounts doesn’t see the light of day. In all these instances, the iron fists of fascism have always bowed down before the people’s protests. With the huge victory in Rajasthan, the farmer organisations have announced another protest in Delhi scheduled in November. The message conveyed by Mandsaur and Sikar incidents is that not-so-good days are what awaits the BJP that is feverishly trying to hold onto power by moving for an election after two years of 'development mission'. This will surely boost the enthusiasm of those who protest against and resist the brutalities of fascist governance.

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