The Kisan Mukti Yatra organised by a coalition of farmers’ organisations in India is all set to reach Delhi on Tuesday, 18 July. The Yatra has touched six North Indian states after it was flagged off from Mandsaur in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh (MP) on 6 July. Mandsaur is the place where five farmers participating in an agitation were shot dead by the police on 6 June.
Loan waivers for farmers, enhancement of minimum support prices (MSP) for crops to 50 percent more than the cost of production, interest-free agricultural credit, withdrawal of the notification restricting cattle trade (which has been subsequently stayed by the Supreme Court), and Rs 5000 pension for farmers above the age of 60 constitute the main demands of the Kisan Mukti Yatra.
The recent months have seen massive protests by farmers in several states. The largest agitations have taken place in states such as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan ruled by the BJP which had come to power at the centre promising a new deal for the peasantry. Ensuring a minimum of 50 percent profit over the cost of production of crops as recommended by the National Commission on Farmers headed by MS Swaminathan was a major point in the BJP’s Manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
But the recent months saw a perilous drop in the prices of a large number of agricultural crops, plunging the farmers deep into crisis and triggering protests. The prices of lentil (masur) crashed by 35% compared to 2016, while Bengal gram (chana) prices decreased by 17-20%. Wheat prices in Maharashtra came down by more than 10%, and Arhar (tur / red gram) prices crashed by about 50%.
The demonetisation exercise of the central government was a major factor which crippled agricultural trade and thereby resulted in the price crash.
Vijoo Krishnan, Joint Secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, told Newsclick that it is the deliberate policies of the central government which led up to this situation. “The Minimum Support Price which the government has announced for most crops is actually below the cost of production. Even this MSP is only notional, as the government has been withdrawing from procurement”, he said.
The Kisan Mukti Yatra is being organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, a coalition of more than 150 farmers’ organisations in the country. Hundreds of organisations of the peasantry, agricultural workers, Dalits and Adivasis participated in the effort. The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh had tried to stop the Yatra right at the beginning by arresting more than 350 marchers including VM Singh, Hannan Mollah, Medha Patkar, Yogendra Yadav, Raju Shetty, Umesh Tiwari and Aradhna Bhargava.
The Yatra, however, went ahead after the detained activists and leaders were released. The Kisan leaders also vowed to build a memorial for the Mandsaur martyrs within a year.
After touching Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the Yatra has reached Palwal in Haryana on Monday, 17 July. The first phase of the Yatra will culminate with a Public Meeting and dharna on Tuesday at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.