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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightFarmers being pushed...

Farmers being pushed to the street again

Farmers being pushed to the street again

Site of last year's farmers' protest near Singhu border

Farmers who had forced the Central government to compromising positions after a year's protest and struggle, have again brought the capital to national attention with their strike on Monday. The confederation of 40 farmer organisations, the Smyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) brought the capital to a standstill with a grand panchayat at Jantar Mantar. As done last year to counter the strike, the Central government tried all means to defeat the protests, including blocking them at the borders, putting up barricades along the site coupled with prohibitory orders in the capital region, but the farmers beat all that and showed their unyielding battle strength. Although the police put the farmer leader Rakesh Tikait under preventive detention a day earlier, soon after his release he reached Jantar Mantar and reiterated the stand of the strikers: He affirmed, "This struggle will continue till the last breath. Won't stop, won't get tired, won't bow down." Last week the Kisan Morcha had staged a protest demonstration in Lakhimpur Kheri in UP demanding that justice be dispensed in the incident of last October in which Ashish Mishra, son of union minister Ajay Mishra drove his car and ran over four farmers to death. The decision of the Morcha is to converge in Delhi on September 6 and decide the future course of action.

Last year's epic struggle of the farmers ended with the Modi government being forced to withdraw the lopsided laws passed by the Centre. But the farmers were forced to take the strike path for a second time, when the assurances given to the farmers all remained on paper and the misery of the farmers continued with no change. What provoked the farmer bodies to the path of agitation again is that the government went back on the assurances given to them on matters such as official steps to make Minimum Support Price (MSP) binding, suspension of cases charged against the farmers, withdrawal of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill containing clauses detrimental to the farmers, and legal action in the farmers' murder in Lakhimpur Kheri. Back then, the government was trying to make a quick fix of issues in the run up to the assembly election in Uttar Pradesh. But the SKM has not been able to consolidate all the constituents who had participated in the earlier agitation, on these issues. Farmers who are affiliated to different political parties, got divided in different layers. Therefore, this time they have formed an alliance, keeping such factions aside and by mobilising neutral farmer parties without connection with groupings which are into electoral politics. And this time, they focus on the increasing unemployment among farmers and the demand for legal guarantee of MSP. The Centre has announced MSP for 23 crops. But since that does not have any legal guarantee, farmers cannot actualise it as a claim. They are now forced to sell their produce during the harvest season at a price much lower than the MSP announced. And that was the reason for the demand of the farmers during the last strike to give legal guarantee to MSP. Even at the time the three farm laws in question were suspended, the Centre was wishy-washy only in the matter of MSP. During the Q&A session of parliament last month, the government also stated beyond doubt that such an assurance was not given to the farmers. But the farmer organisations contend that at the time they called off the strike, the government had given an assurance that for solutions on issues including MSP, a committee would be formed.

On the issue of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, although the son of the union minister, responsible for the incident , was arrested he was soon released on bail. The agitators had demanded that an impartial judicial inquiry be conducted with the minister keeping away from the post, that exemplary punishment be given to the culprit and that four farmers who were arrested be discharged from the charges filed against them. Last week, they staged a sit-in for three days raising this demand too.

In addition to these, there are livelihood issues including the huge arrears due to the sugarcane growers from sugar mills. They submitted a memorandum with three demands of free electricity, stoppage of prepaid meters for domestic connections, protection from stray animals and compensation to the drought-affected. The farmers' allege that after giving precise assurance in these matters, the government cheated the farmers by going back on its word. Therefore, the farmers decided to give up the support, intervention and mediation of politicians and to stage protests on the street until practical solutions are arrived at. During the last agitation, the Union government was all out to torpedo the strike, but in vain. Finally, it had no way but to withdraw the anti-farmer laws. Even then, it was seeking clever ways to introduce the provisions of the law through the back door. Now, rather than finding solutions to the farmers' problems, the government is showing the propensity to make up for having yielded before the agitation last year. That is why it is moving in a manner of not budging an inch on issues where it had bowed its head. And it is in recognition of this that the farmers have chosen the path of strike. It is imperative that the farmers agitation out of pain should win rather than the government's false pride.

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TAGS:Farmer agitation Jantar Mantar Samyukt Kisan Morcha Minimum Support Price Lakhimpur Kheri 
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