New Delhi: Short height, stocky built and a white plaid carelessly knotted on head, Rajendra Mandvi, along with his kisan friends hailing from Akola district in northern Maharashtra, has travelled 1,000 kilometres to join the protesting farmers at National Highway 2 in Haryana’s Palwal.
The farmers have been protesting for over a month now against the recently enacted farm laws and proposed Electricity (Amendment) Act 2020, demanding repeal of the laws which their unions allege will have a devastating impact on agriculture and food security.
Mandvi told NewsClick that Maharashtra’s farmers had travelled from distant corners of the state with the aim of exposing the failure of the Centre to keep its promises of doubling famer’s income and protecting them against natural disasters and damages.
“We came here to join the protest because we had no other option left. Our respectable prime minister does his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ (radio broadcast) every month but he did not give even a second thought to what these laws mean to us? We have come to vent our ‘Mann ki Bhadaas’ (outburst of feelings) to the Central government, saying “Enough is enough”! We listened much to them (ruling BJP) and its leaders who said “let farmers die because whatever you give, it will never be enough for them.” We want to make it clear that this attitude towards farmers is not acceptable anymore!” Mandvi said referring to the controversial statement made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Union minister Sanjay Dhotre a few years ago on the suicide of farmers in Vidarbha region.
A further conversation with Mandvi and his reflected deep- rooted resentment among farmers on the failure of the government machinery in protecting their incomes, especially the much advertised PM Fasal Bima Yojana.
“I have been paying premium under the scheme for two hectares of land for three consecutive years. Our crops were repeatedly damaged due to untimely rains and hailstorm. The government said it is mandatory for an insurance company to survey the damage and pay compensation in 72 hours, but they did not bother to visit us even once. I had paid Rs 1,000 as premium for which I would have got Rs 32,000. But they only paid me Rs 2,400. There are several farmers in my village who did not get a single penny for crop damage. How do we trust them? I did not renew the scheme this year. It is the private companies who only profited from the deal, not us,” Mandi said.
Asked if they see any solution to the impending crisis and increasing debt, Mandvi said “the solution is simple. We were demanding implementation of MS Swaminathan Commission’s formula, but Modiji gave us these disastrous laws.”
Shiva Arbat and Samarth Aware, in their early twenties, narrated their own ordeals. Arbat said that they cannot sell the land despite the fact that agriculture is no longer remunerative.
“If I sell my land and deposit the money in a bank, the interest will be more than we get in farming, but please understand land is not just an economic asset for us. It is a matter of social status too. No father would marry his daughter to a landless person even if I am financially stable,” said Arbat.
Aware said distrust among farmers was also due to the promises made by the Modi government but not delivered.
“Why does Modiji make promises if he cannot deliver them? First, they said Rs 15 lakh come into your bank account, then they said it was a jumla (hollow statement). I think doubling our incomes by 2022 is also a jumla. Modi never revealed if he had a roadmap for achieving this. What does he achieve by playing with our emotions?” said Aware.
Pointing toward Arbat and Aware, Mandvi said” “They should have been working or studying in colleges but cannot do. The Devendra Fadnavis (BJP) government literally sat on the recruitment files for years and no recruitment took place, be it PWD, teachers or police. The jobs are only available through contractors who offer merely Rs 10,000 a month. Isme khayega kya, kamayega kya (what will he earn and save)?”
Meanwhile, Aware brought along V M Chatarkar from Kisan Vikas Manch who joined the conversation. Chatarkar explained that farmers in the region generally grow cotton, gram, toor, moong and onions. Commenting on the farm laws, he said: “Whom is he (PM Modi) trying to befool? We too have read laws. It is specifically mentioned that the company can mortgage the land and take credit on land. Who will be responsible if it runs away with money? Ask the farmer about his pain. I grew 200 quintals of onion but could not sell it. Traders were offering Rs 2 per kg whereas my cost was Rs 7 per kg. In this situation, what will farmers do if not hit the streets?”
Arbat too shared his experience about the perished crop of toor (pulse) this year.” For sowing toor, first we prepare the land by ploughing.This costs Rs 900 per acre. Seeds, sowing and pesticides cost Rs 7,000. Labour for removing weeds and harvesting take another Rs 3,200. I sold about six quintals and 65 kg toor last year at Rs 3,500 per quintal whereas the minimum support price was Rs 4,425. This effectively means I saved Rs 12,000 for the year or Rs 1,000 per month ! Can anyone survive on this income?”