Once again another platoon of farmers, distressed, angry and agitated, reached the outskirts of New Delhi, raising their fists in opposition to the government’s indifference towards them, and these very unarmed farmers, walking or riding tractors, were brutally assaulted by the Delhi Police and the Rapid Action Force to ensure no disturbance is caused by these farmers to the Modi regime’s scheduled programme on MK Gandhi’s birth anniversary – highlighting “non-violence” as a focal theme.
What was that the farmers were demanding that they had to be brutally thrashed by Modi regime’s police force? What was so extraordinary that the farmers demanded and the government considered a crime of a magnitude for which they could be thrashed in public?
The farmers marched to Delhi under the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s leadership. The march was named “Kisan Kranti Padyatra” and it started from Haridwar’s Baba Tikait Ghat, named after the legendary farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, who established the Bharatiya Kisan Union in western UP. The march was scheduled to end at Kisan Ghat of New Delhi, the place where former prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, one of the famous farmer leaders of western Uttar Pradesh, was cremated. The farmers were rallying to highlight their just demands that have been neglected by subsequent governments, irrespective of their hues, especially by the Modi regime.
More than 30,000 farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab reached Delhi with a list of demands. They decided upon a sit-in “Dharna” at the Kisan Ghat until their demands are accepted by the Modi regime. However, a frightened Modi regime didn’t even allow the farmers to enter into Delhi due to the fear of a national media coverage that the farmers will receive, like the participants of the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh Rally or the Tamil Nadu farmers who stayed in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for months. On a day like 2 October, the birth anniversary of MK Gandhi, the Modi regime wanted to portray a clean image of itself, which the farmers threatened to tear. This fear mobilised the armed police and paramilitary forces to charge batons at the farmers near the Ghazipur border of Delhi.
Let us see what are the so dangerous demands that the farmers raised for which they had to face the Modi regime’s brutal assault.
Some of the major demands of the farmers participating in the Kisan Kranti Padyatra are:
The payment of the pending sugarcane dues:
Since years, the sugar mills of western Uttar Pradesh have been delaying payment of dues to the sugarcane farmers. Subsequent governments, including the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government, have worked as loyal bootlickers of the sugar mill owners, who have liberally donated to the political parties that have ruled the state. Under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, the farmers of western Uttar Pradesh have fought against this notorious practice followed by the sugar mill owners for a long time.
However, by inciting a genocide of Muslims in Muzaffarnagar of Uttar Pradesh in 2013, the RSS was successful in weakening the Bharatiya Kisan Union by wreaking its foundation- the unity between Jats and Muslims. The BJP managed to polarise the Jats under the Hindutva camp between 2012-18, however, this polarisation started weakening when the Modi regime’s total failure started uncovering itself since the end of 2017.
During 2017-18, India produced 32 million tonnes of sugar, while the domestic demand was only for 25 million tonnes, which led to a fall in the price of the sugarcane, though the retail price of sugar saw no change. Citing this overproduction, the sugar mill owners have held up the payments of the farmers. This has caused severe hardships for the sugarcane farmers of the region and increased the burden of debts laden on their shoulders.
Before the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, Narendra Modi promised to clear all dues of the sugarcane farmers within 14 days if a BJP-led government is formed. However, the sugarcane dues mounted to 37 per cent of the total sugarcane purchased by the sugar mills. The pending sugarcane dues reached Rs 220 billion, a record high in history. The Bharatiya Kisan Union-affiliated farmers burned their crops in front of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly when the BJP government raised the minimum support price (MSP) by only Rs 10 to Rs 315 per quintal, calling it a treachery as the party promised to fix it at Rs 450 per quintal before the polls.
Even when India experienced a record production of sugarcane and there was an oversupply, the Modi regime suddenly decided to import sugar from Pakistan. This created a major problem for the sugarcane farmers of the country. Western Uttar Pradesh was worse-hit, as the self-certified “nationalist” Modi regime benefited the sugar mills of Pakistan leaving its own vote bank, the Jat sugarcane farmers in deep trouble.
The Bharatiya Kisan Union-led Kisan Kranti Padyatra demanded a clearance of all due payments to the sugarcane farmers so that they can get out of the economic crisis they’re subjected to. The Modi regime has shown no interest in resolving this problem, affecting thousands of families in western Uttar Pradesh. It’s still reluctant to act against the sugar mill owners due to the regular flow of huge donations into its coffer from them.
Lifting the NGT ban on 10-year-old diesel tractors:
The National Green Tribunal has recently imposed a ban on 10-year-old diesel tractors, which will have a serious repercussion on the farmers of North India who are mostly dependent on the machinery for ploughing their land. The ban comes at a time when the farmers are already reeling under the juggernaut of an unbridled rise in the price of diesel under the Modi regime.
The farmers are demanding that either the Modi regime roll-back the ruling of the NGT or at least help the farmers with a fund to buy new vehicles in return of the old ones. The farmers are also demanding a control over the diesel prices so that the input cost of farming doesn’t increase. The Modi regime remains non-committal to this demand, despite paying lip service to it. Narendra Modi and the BJP are tied closely with the big oil marketing corporations and it will not take any step to reduce the price of the fuel or build up a corpus fund to help the farmers buy new tractors in return of the old ones.
Revision of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) or the Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme:
Under the much-hyped PMFBY, the farmers aren’t getting benefits but the insurance corporations are minting huge profit. Only 17 per cent of the farmers’ claims were compensated during the 2016 Kharif season. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare claim that out of Rs 42.7 billion insurance claims by farmers, the insurance companies only paid Rs 7.14 billion until March 2017.
The farmers are demanding a total revision of the PMFBY to make it a pro-farmer scheme from the present pro-insurance company scheme. However, the Modi regime, indebted to the big insurance corporations and their shareholders, have declined the demand of the farmers and is not going to change the scheme.
Rollback of electricity price hike:
The Yogi Adityanath regime of Uttar Pradesh has increased electricity charges for rural consumers and unmetered tubewells in the state after the local bodies poll was over. Though the farmers get nearly four to five hours of electricity in the villages, they have to shell out nearly Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 a month for the electric bill, while earlier they used to pay only Rs 200 to Rs 250 a month for the same duration.
Bharatiya Kisan Union demanded that either the Yogi Adityanath regime should reverse this tariff hike or provide the villagers with electricity for at least 14 hours a day at the same rate. However, the Uttar Pradesh Government remained nonchalant over the issue of rolling back the tariff or increasing the supply to the villages.
The linking of MNREGA with farming:
The farmers of North India, especially the rich and middle farmers, who employ hired labour in their farms for sowing and harvesting, often employing the Dalits and Muslims, find it hard to get farm hands due to labour migration to cities and MNREGA work. They are demanding the linking of MNREGA with farming so that on one hand the shortage of labour is addressed and on the other hand, the farm labourers get better wages on a regular basis.
Though the Modi regime is showing signs of accepting this demand as it comes from the rich farmers and will also benefit the Thakurs, the feudal landlord bloc of Uttar Pradesh who form the core vote bank of the BJP, it’s still non-committal to provide any better wage to the farm labourers under the MNREGA because it has already crippled this last welfare programme of the neo-liberal economy that targeted the rural poor. By making Aadhar linking mandatory for beneficial schemes, the Modi regime has already reduced the scope for the rural poor who used to seek employment under this flagship scheme of the former UPA regime. By linking the MNREGA with farming, this government will only push the farm labourers towards extreme destitution.
Blanket debt waiver for farmers:
Since years, farmers are committing suicide over mounting debts. They are unable to repay their debts due to falling prices of the crops. Narendra Modi promised debt waiver for farmers if elected to power in 2014. This promise didn’t materialise in the last four years. Rather, the number of farmer suicides increased, while big crony capitalists like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi fled the country without repaying their debts worth billions to the public sector banks.
The farmers are demanding a blanket debt waiver and not conditional ones like the one announced by Yogi Adityanath in 2017, which didn’t help the farmers much in reality. The Modi regime and the Yogi Adityanath regime aren’t in a mood to grant such a debt waiver to end the farm crisis, though they are liberal to grant tax sops to big corporations so that they can extract huge profit. This reluctance of the Modi regime is going to prolong the farmers’ struggle throughout the country for debt waiver.
Implementation of the Swaminathan Commission Report:
Narendra Modi and the BJP promised the farmers that it will implement the Swaminathan Commission Report on the farmers and provide an MSP that’s 50 per cent more than the input cost. However, ever since coming to power, Narendra Modi only resorted to demagogy sans any real effective action at the grassroots. This year, the Modi regime declared 50 per cent more MSP on input costs for Kharif crops, however, we have shown in this article how futile the move is and it was found that due to poor penetration only 6 per cent of the farmers could avail the higher price.
The farmers and the Bharatiya Kisan Union are demanding the correct implementation of the Swaminathan Commission Report and a policy to increase the MSP on the basis of input calculated on C2 and not A2+FL. They also want the higher MSP on all crops, Rabi and Kharif, notified and non-notified so that the farmers get some benefit.
Like the above demands, the Modi government remains non-committal over this demand as well and the union ministers have only promised to look into the matter. The government will eventually buy time and then push this into the backburner.
Pension for retired farmers:
When the farmers get old, they face severe hardship due to their inability to work and earn. They live a very horrible life in the villages, often depending on their successors for food and shelter. A stable post-retirement pension for all farmers above the age of 60 would give them a qualitatively better life and add to their household income.
No government took any step towards providing pension to farmers, despite the rhetoric on their welfare. The Bharatiya Kisan Union has demanded a nationwide pension scheme for all farmers above the age of 60, which the government is trying to dodge. Citing expenses, the government will try to push off the responsibility on the farmers and throw open the sector to big financial corporations, who in turn will earn huge profit by diverting the money of the farmers to highly volatile stock markets. The farmers will suffer immensely unless they get a government-guaranteed pension scheme.
Though the BJP’s cabinet minister Mr Shekhawat has promised to resolve most of the demands raised by the farmers, the seriousness of the BJP and the Modi regime about the farmers can be seen in its decision to unleash state violence against the agitating farmers.
Even if Narendra Modi and his ministers try to buy time by duping the farmers regarding their justified demands, it cannot keep the burning issues affecting the farmers of the country in the back burner for long, especially before the crucial assembly elections in three BJP-ruled states, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. These unresolved issues of the farmers will gradually snowball into a major peril for the BJP and Narendra Modi during the 2019 general election, which the BJP wants to win at any cost so that it can establish a Hindutva fascist state officially by 2022.
The farmers’ movement will not stop until the farmers win their right to live with dignity in a country which they feed through their hard work. The Modi regime can’t forcefully subjugate the farmers, especially those who hold control over strategic bastions of the Sangh Parivar. The bullets and batons of the state can’t stop the farmers, hungry, oppressed and pauperised, from fighting their battle and at the end it will be the Modi regime which will face an inevitable doom.