Farmers not asking for free gifts, Rahul Gandhi at mega rally in Delhi
The farmers are demanding loan waiver, higher minimum support price and clearance of two bills that have already been introduced in both Houses of Parliament.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday pledged the opposition’s unstinted support to farmers at their massive rally near Parliament, nudging them to continue their protests to seek a better life for themselves. “I want to assure you we are with you,” Gandhi told the tens of thousands of farmers who had marched to Jantar Mantar earlier in the day, underscoring that he wasn’t just speaking for the Congress on this point, but opposition parties across the spectrum.
“When Modiji can waive off ₹3.5 lakh crores of 15 rich people of the country why can’t he do it for farmers. They (farmers) are not seeking free gifts but only their rights,” Rahul Gandhi told the protesting farmers who are demanding higher prices for their produce and farm loan waiver to alleviate hardships.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and Loktantrik Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav have also joined the protest.
The protesters, many of them waving red, yellow and green flags and banners representing their organisations, also want the passage of two farmer-oriented private member’s bills endorsed by 21 Opposition parties in the Parliament.
“Farmers of the country are suffering.... We are here to wake up the government and ask them to take steps to resolve farmers’ issues or else we will throw them out in 2019. We will support the agitation unless the bills are passed in the parliament,” NCP chief and a former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said.
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CPM’s Sitaram Yechury accused the ruling BJP of attempting to pursuing divisive politics to divert the attention of farmers and the country from their governance failures. “We should rise above BJPs divisive politics and be united for speaking about farmers,” he said.
His rival back in Bengal, Dinesh Trivedi of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, was also present. “We consider this gathering as our parliament. Lets pass a resolution of demands which the other parliament has to support,” he said.
It is the second major farmer’s protest in the national capital in two months. At least 20 people, including police personnel, were injured in a clash between protesters and security personnel on October 2 at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh gate border on National Highway-24 when Delhi Police denied entry to thousands of farmers into the city.
The Delhi march comes just a week after farmers from all across Maharashtra marched to Mumbai to reiterate their demands for loan waiver and land rights among others, eight months after they were promised reforms by the BJP government.
And on March 12, more than 35,000 farmers from across Maharashtra, led by Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), took out a march’ from Nashik to Mumbai to press for their demands. Their 180km march over several days culminated in Mumbai on March 11.
In 2004, the National Commission for Farmers headed by MS Swaminathan submitted five reports, which contain a draft of recommendations that safeguarded the interest of farmers.
The formation of national and state disaster relief commissions that can declare a region or a crop as distress-affected, and provide necessary relief, is also among their demands.
The march has been organised under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of about 200 farmer organisations from across the country.
The farmers started their march on Friday morning after braving the night’s cold at Ramlila Maidan. Widows of farmers from Telangana, who committed suicide after they did not get adequate compensation from the government, are also participating in the protest.
A farmers’ group from Tamil Nadu had threatened to march naked if they are not allowed to go to Parliament on Friday. Last year, the group staged protests at Jantar Mantar with the skulls of eight farmers who killed themselves owing to farm losses.
Over 3,500 police personnel have been deployed along the route of the march from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street, a high-security zone, police said.
As many as 850 police personnel, up to the rank of sub-inspectors, will be 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, said a police officer.
He added that 95 officers from the rank of inspectors up to additional deputy commissioners of police will also be on the ground to monitor the situation.
Volunteers, including doctors, lawyers, professors and artists, have come out in large numbers to help the farmers. Around 600-700 volunteers of a solidarity group Nation For Farmers marched with the protesters from the four assembly points.
Five gurdwaras in the Delhi region also extended their help to the farmers as did students from various universities, who turned out in large numbers.