Kisan Mahapanchayat, the Grand Assembly of the Farmers held on March 20 in Delhi, has signalled a bigger farmers’ movement on the cards. It was held after about four months of their beginning the second leg of farmers’ movement on November 26, 2022, when farmers marched to submit memorandums to governors across the country demanding fulfilment of unfulfilled promises made by the PM Narendra Modi and his government at the Centre.
Farmers have decided in their grand assembly to launch even stiffer and bigger movement if the Centre does not concede to their demands now. A delegation of farmers under the leadership of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) met the Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and submitted two memorandums – the first on their pending demands and the second on the new crises faced this year by potato, tomato, onion and mustard farmers due to sudden crash of market prices.
The grand assembly, in which thousands of farmers across the country have participated, was organised by the SKM. It reminded the Centre, how PM Narendra Modi had unilaterally withdrawn the three controversial farm laws on the occasion of Guru Parb on November 19, 2021against which the farmers were agitating in sit-in protests since November 26, 2020 on the borders of Delhi. That historic farmers agitation was called off on December 2021 only after the agitators were given written assurance by the Centre to fulfil all the justified demands of the agitating farmers. By that time over 750 farmers have already lost their lives during the year-long agitation.
Though the three controversial farm laws allegedly seeking to bring corporate to farm were repealed on November 29 in both the Houses of the Parliament by voice vote, and only two days later it was given assent by the President of India, no enough steps were taken to mitigate the crises the Indian farmers find themselves in.
Now, in the first memorandum submitted by the SKM, they have not only repeated their older demands and the demand for fulfilment of the promises made, but also included the some new demands that have cropped up due to new crises they have been facing since the end of their fist leg of agitation in December 2021.
In the memorandum the SKM has said that they had suspended the agitations in 2021 relying on the Centre’s letter assuring that it would take effective steps to mitigate the crises faced by farmers. However, “Today, over 15 months later, the Union Government has not fulfilled the promises made to the farmers. We request you once again, to urge the Union Government to take immediate concrete steps to resolve the pending issues, and pay heed to the problems of the farmers by fulfilling their demand.”
Their major is a legislative guarantee of MSP for all crops based on the recommendation of Swaminathan Commission. Apart from a law for this purpose they also demanded a new committee on MSP because the present system is not enough to compensate the farmers in terms of their remuneration and rising input costs. Reduction in input prices has also become a demand. Rising indebtedness of farmers has made their life even more miserable and hence they have demanded waiver of all farm loans to all farmers. Withdrawal of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill; comprehensive and effective crop insurance scheme; farmers pension scheme of Rs5000 per month are among the other important demands.
Demand for dismissal of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra “Teni” for his alleged role in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident where four farmers and a journalist were killed; compensation and rehabilitation to the families of Lakhimpur Kheri victims; withdrawal of all cases registered against farmers in the BJP-ruled states; land allocation to construct a memorial for “martyred farmers”, and repealing of the Forest Conservation Rules, 2022 are also part of the fist memorandum.
Their second memorandum are concerned with the present cries faced by farmers due to crash in market prices for several crops such as potato, tomato, onion and mustard. The crisis had recently triggered a long march of farmers in Maharashtra from Nashik to Mumbai on foot.
The memorandum pointed out that the current price support schemes such as “Bhavantar” has become useless as they have not been implemented even during such a crisis. On the one hand the government has been depending on export and import restrictions to regulate the crisis, and on the other no steps are taken to help farmers achieve better prices under the pretext of inflation control.
If the demands were not met, the farmers grand assembly has decided to hold bigger agitations. They have decided to hold State-level conventions and all India rallies to mobilise people on farmers’ problems, as well as continued protest against corporate control over agriculture and the anti-farmer policies of the Centre.
It is also worth recalling that RSS-affiliated farmers’ body Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) had also organised Kisan Garjana Rally in Delhi almost three months ago in December 2022. They also had not only voiced concern over the MSP but also demanded to lower input cost for agriculture among others. It had also threatened to intensify their protest if their demand were not met, and one of its leaders had warned, “Government will face trouble if demands were not met in time.”
The time has come now, at least politically, because six states are scheduled to have Vidhan Sabha election this year, which are seen as semi-final for the Lok Sabha Election 2024. SKM has already decided to campaign across the country against the anti-farmer policies of Modi government, apart from intensifying their agitation and taking it to much bigger scale than their first phase of the movement. (IPA Service)