Thousands of farmers started a two-day Kisan Sansad (Farmers’ Parliament) in Delhi amidst angry, rousing slogans and repeated calls for the sleeping govt. to wake up before it is too late. The gathering listened in electric silence as women members from families of farmers who were forced to commit suicide due to debt narrated the fatal sequence of events. Later the gathering ‘passed’ two ‘bills’ calling for complete debt waiver and increased minimum support prices (cost of production+ 50%) for farmers.
The farmers, including families of over a hundred farmers that had committed suicide in the recent past, have gathered at Delhi under the banner of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). The AIKSCC is an umbrella front of over 180 farmers’ organizations including the All India Kisan Sabha, Swaraj Abhiyan, All India Kisan Manch, Swabhiman Shetkari Sangathan, etc.
In the morning, over 50,000 farmers marched to Parliament and began the kisan Sansad at Parliament Street. In the morning, a Mahila Kisan Parliament (Women Farmers’ Parliament) session was held. Besides being addressed by various women leaders, women members from families of farmers who had committed suicide spoke during this session.
Kavitha, from Nalgonda district in Telengana, narrated the sequence of events leading to her husband committing suicide. They used to sow cotton but the crop failed for three years successively. Their debt mounted up to Rs.4 lakh, an amount much beyond their capacity to repay. In despair Kavitha’s husband ended his life.
But there was a further twist in her moving story. After her husband died, she was to receive Rs.75,000 as payment for a life insurance policy of her husband. But the amount was taken away by the bank as part repayment of the pending loan.
Now, Kavitha works as a daily wage labourer, earning just enough to feed her family which includes a 2 year old daughter and a 4 year old son.
Many other women farmers and labourers from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka etc. narrated similar stories of desperate struggle to survive.
Paniben Solanki, a woman farmer from Gujarat ripped into the so called Gujarat model of development saying that she is in debt to the tune of a whopping Rs.7 lakh. She plants cotton.
“There is no Minimum Support Price available, there is no loan waiver, there is nobody to help us in our dire straits. What kind of ‘development model’ is this?” she angrily complained.
In the afternoon session, two leaders of the farmers’ movement were honoured by the gathered farmers. One was Amra Ram, of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), who successfully led a militant mass struggle of farmers in Rajasthan to for ce the state govt. to waive Rs.20,000 crore worth of debt. The other was Raju Shetty of the Swabhiman Shetkari Sangathan (SSS)in Maharashtra who left the NDA to fight for farmers’ rights.
Later, two draft bills were introduced before the farmers’ Parliament. The bill on farmers’ debt waiver was introduced by Hannan Mollah, former 8-time MP and leader of AIKS. He alleged that farmers’ suicides had gone up by 42% during Modi’s three and a half year rule. Several dozen farmers have been killed in police firings. The ‘bill’ calls for complete debt waiver for farmers debts from all sources.
The ‘bill’ on minimum support prices was introduced by Raju Shetty of the SSS. It calls for ensuring that farmers get a market price of at least the cost price and 50% in addition to that. This was a poll promise of Prime Minister Modi, Shetty said, adding that it should rightly be the agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh who should be introducing the bill in Parliament.
The Kisan Sansad will resume tomorrow.