Buoyed by Narendra Modi’s victory in scrapping controversial agricultural reforms, Indian farmers held a mass rally on Monday to keep pressure on the government.
Thousands of farmers took part in the rally in Lucknow in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, described as showing the government the strength to fulfill its promise.
Farmer leaders addressed the crowd and said the promise to repeal agricultural laws, which Mr Modi has said will be given in the next parliamentary session, is only the first victory of his year-long protest, and that the government “also” giving. Still very few, even though there were many demands on the table”.
In a statement, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of farmers’ unions that coordinated the protests, said a letter had been sent to Mr. Modi regarding the pending demands of the farmers.
These include a legal guarantee that farmers will continue to receive the Minimum Support Price (MSP) – a fixed minimum rate backed by the government – for all agricultural products. Presently the government provides support price only for rice and wheat.
Farmers also demanded the withdrawal of a bill to reduce state control of electricity provision (farmers currently do not have to pay for their electricity in India); Protection for farmers burning stubble from being punished under the Delhi Air Quality Rules, and withdrawal of hundreds of criminal cases brought against farmers who took part in the ongoing agitation.
They also demanded the dismissal and arrest of cabinet minister Ajay Mishra Teni, whose son is accused of driving a car in a convoy that crushed eight people at a farmers’ protest at Lakhimpur Kheri last month.
The farmers in their letter have also demanded compensation and rehabilitation assistance to the families of farmers killed during the protests and a memorial in their name at Delhi’s Singhu border, one of the main protest sites. More than 600 farmers have died in the ongoing agitation against the three laws.
The controversial agriculture laws were first passed by the Modi administration in September 2020. Despite representing the biggest reforms for agriculture in India for decades, only a brief debate and no committee inquiry passed through Parliament.
The laws are designed to open up farming to the private sector, and the government has described them as a necessary step to modernize a heavily subsidized system that is no longer fit for purpose.
However, farmers feared that these measures would leave them open to exploitation by large corporations close to the current government, and would be a step on the way to scrapping their MSPs.
On Friday, in a rare U-turn, Mr Modi announced that three laws would be repealed and asked farmers to go back to their homes.
In its statement, the farmers’ organization said: “We want to assure you (Mr Modi) that we are not fond of sitting on the streets. We also want these other issues to be resolved as soon as possible and return to our homes, families and farming. If you want the same, then the government should immediately resume talks with the United Kisan Morcha on the above six issues.
The protest, which started last year, emerged as one of the biggest challenges for Mr. Modi’s government. The government was criticized by opposition parties for bulldozing laws through Parliament without consulting stakeholders or any state administration. The government later offered to suspend the laws and hold consultations, but by this point the farmers had asked for nothing less than a complete repeal.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /