The Samyukta Kisan Morcha Haryana, a collective of 25 unions of farmers in the state, will form district-level committees to mobilise peasants ahead of the first anniversary of the historic struggle against the three farm laws on November 26.
In a state convention held on Tuesday, the collective announced that it will also intensify the ongoing agitation at the office of Hansi superintendent of police by mobilising farmers across the state on November 19 to press for the withdrawal of the criminal cases against farmers who protested the visit of Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha member Ram Chander Jangra to Narnaund, Hisar.
Farmers have also demanded registration of criminal cases against Jangra’s personal security officers who allegedly pistol-butted farmer Kuldeep Rana, injuring him grievously.
Inderjit Singh, a veteran leader of All India Kisan Sabha, said that farmers would observe Kisan Majdoor Sangharsh Diwas on the birth anniversary of prominent British India politician Sir Chhotu Ram at the protest sites, including toll plazas, on November 24 to push for greater mobilisation.
Chaudhary Chhotu Ram, a prominent lawyer, journalist and administrator, is revered among the farmers of Haryana and Punjab for pro-peasant reforms in pre-independence India. He played a prominent role in the enactment of the Punjab Relief of Indebtedness Act,1934, which relieved farmers from paying loans if they paid the interest amount twice and banned the auction of milch animals if they were unable to pay the loan amount. He is also credited with bringing the law for the establishment of agricultural produce markets, which freed farmers from the clutches of middlemen and ensured better rates for their produce.
The core committee of the Morcha had already announced that the farmers stationed at the borders of the national capital will start moving to Parliament in contingents of 500 from Ghazipur and Tikri borders on November 29 and court arrest if stopped by the police. “There were multiple proposals from farmer organisations to conduct Jattha Yatras from different parts of the state to mobilise people at the borders. To dispel confusion, we have formed a nine-member committee that will soon release a universal schedule of Jattha Yatra,” Singh told Newsclick.
a deep resentment, a timely call
A conversation with the farmers at the convention, held at Jat Dharamshala in Jind, revealed a deep resentment among farmers across Haryana over the state of affairs from lack of government intervention in saving crops from floods and pink bollworm, increasing input prices and less return on sales.
Ved Prakash, from Jalalpur Kalan (Jind), told Newsclick that the biggest concern of farmers like him is the increasing input prices and depleting returns on crops. “It is a vicious cycle for us. We are heavily dependent on commercial crops like paddy, maize and green gram. Sowing of the same seeds every year has reduced the fertility of the land. Ideally, we should swap crops to restore fertility naturally instead of using fertilisers but the return will decrease.”
Prakash mentioned how farmers are farmers are unable to afford costlier pesticides and insecticides needed to counter new unknown diseases and agricultural equipment. “Our incomes have hardly increased if we compare the increase in input prices and the rise in the minimum support price over the years.” The findings of the National Sample Survey Office’s 77th Survey released in September showed that while the income of farmers increased by 59% in six years post-2013, debt also increased by 58%.
Prakash, who owns one acre, said that farmers with small holdings are in the worst situation. “The dependency on land has only increased as families are growing and preferring to divide the land. Our family is quarrelling over dividing the land. Besides, farmers want their children to join other professions as farming does not offer any return. However, the rate of joblessness is too high. This shows the crisis in our society.”
Deshpal Dahiya, from Rohna village, in neighbouring Sonipat district, told Newsclick that he incurred a loss of Rs 10 lakh after the cotton grown in 14 acres of rented land was destroyed by pink bollworms. The diammonium phosphate (DAP) shortage has only deepened the crisis. “I grew cotton in 14 acres, paddy in 9 acres and Pearl millets in 2 acres. The millets too were destroyed by the pink bollworms. Hoping that the next crop will cover our losses, we landed up queuing for DAP. I arranged some bags through my dealer. I saw farmers travelling for 100 km in search of DAP bags.”
Dahiya mentioned how farmers aspiring for a good life ended in debt. “They too wanted their children to work at posh offices and lead a good life. Therefore, they enrolled them at expensive private schools meant for the children of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. Rarity became a norm with farmers either selling land or taking debt.”
Dahiya said that farmers are determined to get the farm laws repealed but only through non-violence. “The government is hiding in bunkers. The policemen and soldiers we face during protests are our brothers; we cannot fight with them. If we intended to use violence, we could have done it on January 26. In a democracy, agitation is the only way to put forward demands.”
Reminding the government that it is gravely mistaken if it thinks that the movement will fizzle out, Dahiya said, “Our children notice how their family members protest at the borders with the government not willing to talk to them. Governments will come and go. If the government does not concede to our demands, we will change it through our votes.”
Mandeep Singh, president, Pagdi Sambhal Jatta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Haryana, narrated how is severely indebted. “I own 11 acres and borrowed Rs 11 lakh from banks and moneylenders. I have been paying the interest for years. When I wanted to enrol my child at a school, they asked for cumulative fees of Rs 80,000. I had no option but to borrow money. The government is privatising everything, making our lives worse. How can a private entity run things in a better manner than the government?”