By Elton Gomes
Revolting against the government’s anti-farmer policies, thousands of workers, farmers, and agricultural workers marched to Parliament Street in New Delhi as part of a Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh rally. The rally was organised by unions affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M).
The protesting farmers are mainly seeking an implementation of remunerative prices for farm produce, a loan waiver, and a minimum wage of Rs 18,000 a month.
Who is organising the protest?
The Mazdoor Kishan Sangharsh Rally has been jointly organised by associations related to the Left, such as Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), and All-India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU). It is reportedly the largest protest that has been held at Parliament Street in 2018, and organisers of the rally claimed at least 1.5 lakh people participated in it.
What are the farmers demanding?
The major demands of the farmers include loan waivers for small farmers and higher minimum support prices for crops. They are also demanding minimum monthly wages of Rs 18,000, an end to anti-worker labour reform, and social security and food security benefits for all.
Besides debt waivers, the farmers are demanding that Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations be implemented for a more comprehensive support price for crops. Universal social security, food security, pension, health, housing, and education benefits are other demands that farmers have been protesting for.
Criticising the current government’s policies, Sumesh Naranikkal, a construction worker in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, said that the Modi government is “anti-poor” and “anti-farmer”.
S. Thirunavukkarasu, president of the All India Agricultural Workers Union, questioned the government about its promise of acche din. Thirunavukkarasu said, “What has happened to ‘acche din’ promised by the Modi government? It was only acche din for corporates, not for people like us,” the Hindu reported.
Who else is supporting the protest
Several artists, academicians, and Left-wing intellectuals came out in support of the farmers and workers and demanded that the Centre accept their demands. Additionally, the Congress Party also supported the rally.
More protests in the future?
The Modi government has already been rattled by farmers’ protests in the past, and it seems like more farmer protests could be held in the coming days. “From November 28 to 30, we will hold a ‘Long March of the Dispossessed’. It will not just be farmers, but also the landless, Adivasis, Dalits, workers who will come to surround the four corners of Delhi,” Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, said, the Hindu reported.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union, a farmers group led by Rakesh Tikait, announced that it will be going on a Kisan Kranti Padayatra from Haridwar to Delhi on September 23 to October 2. The protest walk will be held to demand an increase in minimum support price, farmer-friendly crop insurance, and income support for small and marginal farmers.
Farmers’ protests in the past
Farmers in India have taken to the streets on several occasions in the past to protest against the negligence and lack of reforms. A recent example of a large-scale farmers’ march was the Kisan Long March in March. More than 30,000 farmers marched overnight to protests at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan. The farmers said they marched overnight so that students taking their SSC exams are not inconvenienced.
Milk supply in Maharashtra was affected when dairy farmers demanded a subsidy of Rs 5 per litre. Tankers supplying milk to major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, and others were blocked early morning, while milk was spilt on the road as a mark of protest.
The most violent farmers’ protest in recent times took place in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh after five farmers lost their lives due to police firing. The farmers were demanding a loan waiver and better crop prices, and the protests resulted in five deaths around Madhya Pradesh.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius