One year ago, farmers seeking loan waivers and better crop prices faced off with the cops at Piplya Mandi and Bhai Choupati in Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh. The cops opened fire after their usual baton-and-teargas response failed to scatter the protesting farmers, mostly Patidars. Five farmers died; 17-year-old Abhishek Patidar was among them. Lokmarg met Abhishek’s father, Dinesh Patidar. Here’s what he had to say.
I have lost my son; this state (Madhya Pradesh) has lost so many farmers but their situation has not changed one bit. The condition of farmers in the country can be estimated from the fact that if we invest ₹100 in a crop we will earn only ₹40 to 60. Forget profit margins or breaking even, the question is about existence. And the situation is the same for every farmer no matter how much land they have.
I was born to be a farmer. In the 1980s we used cattle for farming in 28 bighas (A bigha of land measures a little more than a fourth of an acre) of ancestral land. But as times changed technology came into place. New machinery, equipment, better irrigation facilities, fertilizers, and seeds, but this all has only increased our capital expenditure. We cannot even realise the price of a tubewell even after five years of farming. So despite new kinds of farming, the debt of farmers is only increasing.
All the farmers are using latest seeds and fertilizer for better crop so that we can get better prices for our hard work but the end of the day we cannot get adequate price for our cultivation.
I feel the government has taken few measures for the relief for farmers but those are only in government files as no relief or aid is reaching farmers.
We are getting cheaper electricity but fuel to run latest machinery and equipments are abnormally high. Even the cost of transporting produce from our fields to the mandis (grain and vegetable markets) is only increasing.
This region lost many farmers in police firing and lathi-charge in June 2017, but the farmer of this region is still forced to commit suicide. Where will a farmer go if he doesn’t even earn what he has invested?
We Patidars believe giving subsidy or writing-off debt is a long-term solution. I strongly believe a farmer can grow only if he gets fair prices for his hard work. Farmer of this country can only prosper if the government makes sure each crop is brought at the right price.
We still sometimes recall the violent action in which I lost my son. We are still angry that no action has been taken against the policemen who killed my son. One year after police firing in Mandsaur, anger among farmers persists.
Abhishek was a class 12 student and was also one of the five killed in police firing against angry farmers demanding a better price for their produce, and a loan waiver.
For political gains, politicians keep coming to our village but none of them are going to get my son back nor can they stop farmers’ suicide. Rahul Gandhi’s Mandsaur’s visit and farmers rally kick-started Congress’ MP election campaign but is there anything he can do in a BJP ruled state?
Netas should now deliver their promises made to the farmers or there will be no one to work the fields.
—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg
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The gruelling 200-km, six-day long ‘Long March’ by over 35,000 farmers ended on a positive note, with the Maharashtra government conceding most demands on Monday evening.
The decision was announced at a rally addressed by state ministers along with farmers’ leaders at Azad Maidan where the peasants arrived at dawn on Monday, following which the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leaders announced that the agitation was withdrawn.
“We held very cordial discussions and have conceded most of the demands of the tribals, labourers and farmers who took part in the march,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced here.
According to a Kisan Sabha leader, the main demands pertained to complete implementation of the loan waiver scheme announced last year, implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and compensation for victims of damage to cotton crops following bollworm infestation and the unseasonal rains and hailstorm.
On implementing the Forest Rights Act, Fadnavis said that all pending claims/appeals shall be cleared in six months.
About the farm loans waiver, the government said it had already distributed funds to banks for 46.52 lakh farmers and 35.51 lakh farmers had been disbursed their loan waiver amounts.
On the implementation of the M.S. Swaminathan Commission report, he said the government would pursue it with the centre.
Additionally, farmers who were not entitled to the loan waiver scheme of 2008 shall be brought under the ambit of the current Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, and farmers from 2001 onwards would now get the benefits.
Similar satisfactory outcome was reported for other demands including water projects, the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme, fixing of milk rates and pending issues with ration cards to enable farmers and poor get ration at fair price shops.
Kisan Sabha leaders including Ajit Nawale expressed satisfaction over the outcome.
Earlier, top political leaders including NCP President Sharad Pawar, Congress leader Ashok Chavan, Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and social crusader Anna Hazare attacked the government for ignoring the case of the farmers.
“Any party which ignores the cause of farmers will not survive,” thundered Yechury.
“Today, if the farmers demands are not conceded, they will shake up the state and the Centre, and install a government of their choice,” he said.
The 35,000-plus farmers, including men, women and youths, who halted under the scorching sun at the historic Azad Maidan since dawn will prepare to return to their homes later tonight.
Marching under the AIKS banner, the farmers wing of the CPI-M, many sported red caps and carried red party flags or banners, their lunch wrapped in newspapers. They walked almost 200 km for nearly 150 hours since March 6 and reached Mumbai late on Sunday night.
Some had swollen eyes and blistered feet and wore torn clothes.
All major political parties supported the agitation, with Congress President Rahul Gandhi terming it “an unprecedented show of strength” and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Fadnavis to shed their ego and concede the farmers’ legitimate demands.