Thousands of farmers, who arrived at the National Capital on Thursday chanting “Dilli chalo”, on Friday took out a Kisan Mukti March, demanding that the government bring in legislation for a guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) for their produce and freedom from debts.
At a protest meet in Jantar Mantar, Opposition leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, joined hands to criticise what they called the anti-farmer policies of the Union government.
The march was organised under the banner of the All-India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a platform of 200 farmers’ groups. Farmers from different parts of the country, including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh took part in the rally.
Here are the latest updates:
Farooq Abdullah extends support to farmers rally, says Kashmir stands with them
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah extended his support to farmers, who have gathered here to press for their demands, and urged people to join hands to overthrow the BJP government in the upcoming elections.
Mr. Abdullah, in his address at the venue, said Kashmir was a part of India and would always remain a part of it, and added, "Kashmiris are standing with farmers and support them in their rights".
"We all know your plight. We know how you spend everything on your farms and when you do not get the right produce you have to starve. The farmers' movement to Delhi is a wake up call for the government," he said.
He also said the Muslims were not against the Ram temple.
"Muslims are not against the temple. The hatred that is being spread by the government that Muslims are against the Ram Mandir is not true. Whenever elections come, these people remember Ram," he said.
"They [BJP] want to divide India on communal lines. We are 70% Muslims [in Kashmir] and we will live and die for India. Your worries are our worries and we are standing with you. Elections are coming, let us stand together and not let them divide us and let us overthrow them," he said.
Ayyakannu-led farmers stage nude protest at Kisan rally
A group of farmers from Tamil Nadu on Friday staged a 'nude protest' at the Kisan rally on Parliament Street in New Delhi by lying in front of the stage after placing bones and human skulls on their bodies.
About 1,300 members of the National South Indian River Interlinking Farmers Association reached the national capital in the early hours of Thursday and were carrying seven skulls and bones, said their leader P. Ayyakannu.
He said the skulls and bones were of the farmers who committed suicide.
Nine farmers, without clothes, lay down in front of the stage by keeping bones on their bodies, and demanded profitable price for agricultural produce, waiver of loans, interlinking of rivers and pension for farmers over 60 years.
Mr. Ayyakannu claimed that they also ran in front of the stage to press for their demands.
They are among the thousands of farmers, who marched to Ramlila Ground on Thursday and to Parliament Street on Friday, to press for their demands of debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce.
"Our main agricultural activities include paddy cultivation, cotton farming, horticultural activities like coconut cultivation and banana cultivation. More than 700 farmers have committed suicide in Tamil Nadu due to loans they could not repay. We have no water and have been suffering from drought like situations for the last five years. This year, too, we suffered due to storms," the protesting farmers said.
The farmers-led by Ayayakannu had raised eyebrows when they protested at Jantar Mantar last year with the protesters wearing 'garlands of skulls', stripping naked and drinking urine.
Fulfill farmers' demands or they'd 'wreak havoc ' in 2019 polls: Kejriwal
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday hit out at Mr. Modi over farmers' issues and alleged that he had "stabbed them in their back" by not fulfulling the promises made to them.
"The government had also made lot of promises to farmers in last elections , but it has not fulfilled those promises. And, by not implementing the Swaminathan Commission report, Modi ji has stabbed the farmers in their back ['kisano ke peeth mey chhura bhonka hai']," he alleged.
"The affidavit filed in the court should be withdrawn and the report should be implemented, otherwise, farmers would wreak havoc in 2019 elections ['kisan agle election mey qayamat dhah denge']," he said.
Agriculture Minister responds to Congress
Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh took to Twitter to criticise Congress for taking part in Friday's farmers protest.
Why did the past Congress governments neglect farmers, he asked. In a series of tweets, Mr. Singh asked why the then UPA government didn't take efforts to implement Swaminathan panel report that was submitted in 2006.
Mr. Singh narrated the steps taken by the NDA government for the welfare of farmers. The portal National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) was created for the benefit of farmers. As many as 585 markets have joined the initiative, Mr. Singh said adding that farmers can trade their produce online using the portal. Another 415 markets would be added by the next financial year, he claimed.
An Agri-Market Development Fund was announced in the Union Budget 2018-19. Through this fund over 22,000 village haats and 585 Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) will be developed as per the guidelines of the Swaminathan Panel report.
Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitating) Act (APLM), 2017 was enacted to involve private sector in setting up cold-storage and warehouses. The government also enacted Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016 and Model Contract and Services Act, 2018 for agricultural reforms. For the first time, the government also provided soil health cards to farmers to improve productivity of farm lands, he added.
Key leaders of most Opposition parties are present at Jantar Mantar, the protest venue. Leaders from the AIADMK, the DMK, and the BSP are absent.
Govt. has backstabbed farmers, alleges Kejriwal
Arvind Kejriwal asks farmers to chant 'Kisan Ekta' as loudly as possible so that the Prime Minister ''can hear it.'' Claiming that the government has submitted before the Supreme Court that the M.S. Swaminathan Panel report cannot be implemented, he says the government has backstabbed farmers. "He [Prime Minister Narendra Modi) has stabbed farmers in the back. No government can betray this explicitly."
Mr. Kejriwal terms crop insurance fraudulent. "The money from farmers' accounts are being taken out without their knowledge. The Fasal Bhima Yajana is actually BJP Daka Yojana [BJP's dacoity scheme] " he says.
Farmers are only asking for their rights: Rahul Gandhi
Mr. Gandhi says loan waiver is given to corporates, but not farmers. "This fight is for jobs and the future of farmers."
Farmers are not demanding aircraft from Anil Ambani. They are not asking for any gifts. They are only asking for their rights, he says.
As Mr. Gandhi continues to speak, Mr. Kejriwal arrives.
Former JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav says, "Don't let the lotus bloom... You need to stand up and remove this govt to save the country, democracy is at risk."
National Conference leader says Lord Ram belongs to the World and not just India. "Muslims are not against temples. Lord Ram belongs to the world, not just India. These people [BJP] remember Ram only at the time of elections... ' Will you vote for Ram or Allah '," he asks.
Rahul Gandhi arrives.
Telugu Desam Party's K Raveendrakumar says he has come to attend the rally because Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu asked him to express solidarity with farmers. "We support the cause of farmers, in unity with all those who support farmers."
AAP leader and MP Sanjay Singh says, "Modi can only speak, only make promises, but does not do any work. Where is the Rs. 15 lakh that was promised? Where are the two crore jobs? Instead, they are now bringing up Ram Mandir and Ayodhya."
He accuses the BJP of seeking votes in the name of Lord Ram instead of putting forth their works. " Ram ke Naam pe vote maang rahe hain, kaam ke naam pe nahi ," he says.
Former president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union Kanhaiya Kumar and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani arrive.
Farooq Abdullah joins the rally
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury points at the Parliament Street Police Station and says: "It is this very police station where Bhagat Singh was detained. Singh used bomb to make a tone deaf British government to hear. If this government does not hear then there will be a bigger explosion. And we no longer need bomb, we have votes."
''They talk of Ramayan, but forget about Mahabharat. Does anyone remember more than two Kauravas? Just like that only Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are visible," he says. He goes on to compare Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah to pocket-maar (pickpockets).
Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda says in a tweet,“Modi Government and BJP are boasting about betterment of India’s position in the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index. But, with ‘Ease of Doing Business’, India should also better itself in ‘Ease of Doing Agriculture’ This is very important @narendramodi avare (sic).”
In another tweet, he says, “Eradication of poverty, employment generation, rural development are all possible if India betters itself in ‘Ease of Doing Agriculture’ too.”
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar says, "There is need to improve the condition of farmers, but the one's who hold the reigns of the this government do not care about farmers."
Leaders from Opposition parties start arriving at Jantar Mantar.
Mr. Yechury, CPI leaders D. Raja and Sudhakar Reddy, Mr. Pawar, Samajwadi Party's Dharmendra Yadav and the Trinamool Congress's Dinesh Trivedi arrive.
Mr. Sharad Yadav joins the rally.
Many women turn up for the protest. They say their sufferings are worse than men.
Rita Messi (45) travelled around 200 km from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh to the national capital with a hope of sustaining her livelihood as a farmer and making her demand heard at the rally.
Rita, who supports 11 family members as a sugarcane farmer, has struggled over the years due to crop failure and her inability to pay off the debts. “I took big risks by taking loans from banks with the hope of doing well. But a drought like situation in the first year, flood in second year and lately, storms have destroyed all my hopes. Now I am unable to repay my loans,” she tells PTI .
The national secretary of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), Asish Mittal, says farmers from 24 States have joined the protest.
The AIKSCC has claimed that the two-day rally is one of the largest congregations of farmers in Delhi.
The AIKSCC was formed under the aegis of the All India Kisan Sabha and other left-affiliated farmers’ bodies in June 2017, following protests by farmers in States such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh for debt relief and remunerative prices.
Women have come from Telangana carrying photos of their kin who lost their lives due to debt.
As farmers reach Parliament Street, sounds and chants grow louder. Members of Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra stage a performance.
Farmers have begun their march from Ramlila Maidan. Farmers from various parts of the country converged at Delhi's iconic ground on Thursday.
As Ramlila Maidan became the halt for the night for thousands of farmers, echoes of demands for their “haq” resonated in the crisp Delhi winter air.
At a ‘Kisan Night’ organised to lift the spirits of the farmers, one of the performers sang, “ Ab haq ke bina bhi kya jeena, yeh jeene ke samaan nahi (Life has no meaning without rights).”
The farmers leading the march have reached Parliament Street. As they pass through the Sansad Marg Police Station, the number of farmers continues to swell. As per the organisers, over one lakh farmers are taking part in the rally.
Farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, who are taking part in the Kisan Mukti March, are crossing Delhi's commercial district at Connaught Place.
Tamil Nadu farmers march with skulls
Farmers from Tamil Nadu join the march. They are marching with the skulls of their relatives who took their lives due to farm distress and debt. As many as 350 farmers have come to the National Capital to participate in the rally.
A farmer says his relatives died in 2010. He says he has visited Delhi eight times since then seeking government's help. "I will vote for whichever party is willing to help farmers, give fair prices and loan waivers."
Delhiites lend support
Five gurdwaras in the Delhi region extend their help to farmers. Also students from various universities turn out in large numbers to lend support to farmers. The protest also sees the participation of a number of women farmers who travelled from various parts of the country.
Volunteers, including doctors, lawyers, professors and artists, all came out in large numbers to help farmers. Around 600-700 volunteers of a solidarity group, Nation For Farmers, marched with the protesters from the four assembly points.
Over 3,500 police personnel have been deployed along the rally route.
According to a senior police officer, special arrangements have been made in Central and New Delhi police districts.
As many as 850 police personnel, up to the rank of sub-inspectors, have been deployed in the Central district. They will be augmented by the presence of 12 police companies, including two of women, comprising 75-80 personnel each, a police official said.
The Delhi Traffic Police have issued a traffic advisory. Farmers will march to Jantar Mantar via Guru Nanak Chowk - Ranjit Singh flyover - Tolstoy Marg. Over 3,500 police personnel have been deployed along the rally route.
Police have said traffice is likely to be affected on roads surrounding the Ramlila Maidan, Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, Deshbandhu Gupta Road, Rani Jhansi Marg, Mandir Marg, Panchkuian Road, Barakhamba Road, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Janpath, Ashoka Road, Ferozhah Road, Baba Kharak Singh Marg and Jai Singh Marg.
‘I have come to Delhi to speak for my people, demand some relief’
When Cyclone Titli struck the coasts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh on October 11, it left a huge disaster in its wake — deaths, flooding, landslips and more than ₹6,000 crore worth of damage.
For Apparao, an Adivasi farmer from Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh where the storm made landfall, it wiped out his entire crop.
As he marched from Nizamuddin toward the Ramlila Maidan on Thursday along with thousands of other farmers in preparation for Friday’s Kisan Mukti March, he detailed the scale of the disaster that has overtaken adivasi farmers in his district.
Farmers set up camp at Ramlila Maidan
Farmers have set up camp at the Ramlila Maidan. They have come from various States, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
Farmers from Tamil Nadu have arrived to take part in the rally.
'Govt has not still heard our distress'
“Over the last one-and-a-half years, farmers have been protesting across the country. This is the culmination, an eye-opener moment for farmers that the government has still not heard their distress,” said V.M. Singh, convener of the AIKSCC.
“Elections are round the corner. There is no more time, no more jumlas [empty promises] will be accepted. Farmers are demanding that this government keeps its promises and passes these Bills before its term ends,” he said.
Apart from a full-fledged discussion on agrarian crisis, the farmers want two Bills to be passed in Parliament. TheY are the Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018, and The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018. They were introduced as private member Bills in the last session of Parliament. At the time, 21 political parties had indicated their support.