SKM farmers to meet MPs with their 14 demands

A law to guarantee MSPs is among 14 demands in an SKM charter to be presented to PM Narendra Modi and Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi; also demand loan waivers, pensions, separate agri budget

Updated - July 12, 2024 07:51 pm IST

Published - July 11, 2024 05:49 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders address a press conference at the Press Club of India in New Delhi on July 11, 2024.

Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders address a press conference at the Press Club of India in New Delhi on July 11, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

Farmers groups belonging to the Samyukt Kisan Morcha have renewed their struggle with a charter of 14 demands, including the immediate enactment of a law to guarantee minimum support prices (MSPs) for their produce in accordance with the M.S. Swaminathan Committee’s formula.

The charter will be presented to the Union Government and Opposition parties, with petitions to be sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi. Farmers also plan to meet all MPs to ensure that their demands are raised in Parliament, SKM leaders told journalists on Thursday after a general body meeting on Wednesday.

The SKM is an umbrella body of the farmers groups who held a year-long agitation outside Delhi in 2020 and 2021 against three contentious agricultural marketing laws. Though the protesting farmers went home after the government repealed the three laws, several of their other demands, including a legal guarantee for MSPs, remain unfulfilled.

Asked if farmers will march to Delhi again, the SKM leaders said this time they are focusing on nationwide protests, particularly in Assembly election-bound Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana.

"The same method of protest does not have to be used every time. We will hold protests across the country," All India Kisan Sabha's (AIKS) Hannan Mollah, who was a part of the general body meeting, said.

In a statement, released after the press conference, the SKM said, "The general body has decided to resume the agitation demanding implementation of the agreement, dated December 9, 2021, that the Union Government has with the SKM, signed by the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Government of India, and other key demands affecting the livelihood of farmers."

Loan waivers, pensions

Apart from an MSP law, the SKM charter also seeks a loan waiver to free farmers and agricultural workers from indebtedness and end farm suicides. They have also reiterated their stand against the privatisation of the power sector and against prepaid smart meters. The charter includes a demand for comprehensive public sector insurance coverage for all crops and animal husbandry, scrapping the Pradhan Mantri Fazal Bima Yojana.

Budget In Focus: MSP, loan waiver and crop insurance, crucial issues for farmers

Another demand is for a pension of ₹10,000 per month to be given to all farmers and agricultural workers. “Implementing Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, revised circle rate of land every alternative year across India, providing due compensation to all those who lost land due to illegal acquisition for projects by the public as well as private sector and stopping acquisition without rehabilitation and resettlement; end bulldozer raj and end demolition of slums and settlements without prior rehabilitation,” the SKM said.

Separate agri budget

The farmers are seeking an end to the corporatisation of agriculture and demanded that India exit the World Trade Organization’s agreement on agriculture. “No GST on agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, electricity, irrigation, petroleum products, machineries and tractors,” the SKM charter said, adding that the GST Act should be amended to ensure the State Governments’ right to taxation.

They want a separate budget for agriculture, with the allocation of an adequate share of the GDP. The Ministry of Cooperation should be abolished, the SKM said, noting that Cooperation is a State subject according to the Constitution.

The SKM reiterated its demand that all the cases related to the farmers’ struggle should be withdrawn.

Poll impact

At the meeting, SKM leaders congratulated farmers and workers for successfully raising burning livelihood issues to counter the “communal and pro-corporate narrative” of the BJP during the recent parliamentary poll campaign.

“The SKM campaign of ‘Expose, Oppose and Punish BJP’ has made a large impact wherever the farmers’ movement was widespread and active. The defeat of the BJP in 38 rural seats from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra and the defeat of the then-Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni in Lakhimpur Kheri, U.P., and [Agriculture Minister] Arjun Munda in Khunti, Jharkhand, reveals the impact of the farmers’ struggle. BJP has lost in 159 rural-dominated constituencies,” the farmers’ group said.

On August 17, the SKM's Punjab unit will hold three-hour protests in front of the residences of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and his ministers on issues of water crisis, debt burden, opening the India-Pakistan trade through road corridors and federal demands of the State against the "policy of centralisation of power and resources" by the Modi-led NDA Government.

The SKM, on the same day, will also organise seminars in all States on the issue of water crisis and climate change affecting agriculture.

(With PTI inputs)

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