Thousands of farmers and agricultural workers from the rain-affected districts in Tamil Nadu began a sit-in protest demanding better compensation for crop damage on January 5. Crops, including paddy that was ready for harvest, and corn, maize, millets, dal, and tapioca in around five lakh acres were completely damaged due to the incessant rains during the north-east monsoon in November 2021.
Thousands of cattle, including cows and goats, were also washed away in the rains, leading to the loss of livelihood of the farmers. The farmers demanded a compensation of Rs 30,000 per acre for paddy while the government announced a trivial amount of Rs 8,000 per acre. The government is yet to announce compensation for other crops and cattle.
Farmers and agricultural workers took out rallies and protested before the office of the district collectors for two days until the agriculture minister invited the leaders of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers Unions (AIAWU) for talks on January 7.
MASSIVE POLICE DEPLOYMENT
The police denied permission for the protests, which were announced jointly by the AIKS and AIAWU, along with several associations of the farmers from the delta districts. The heavy deployment of police personnel and barricades were insufficient to stop the rallies of the farmers and workers.
The police used barricades to prevent the workers from proceeding to the district collector office.
“The farmers have lost their crops due to the incessant monsoon rains and the compensation announced by the state government is insufficient. The right to protest should not be curbed,” said P Shanmugam, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, which is affiliated to the AIKS.
Apart from the compensation for paddy crops, the farmers also demanded Rs 20,000 per acre as compensation for other crops and Rs 10,000 for the loss of cattles. The farmers’ association said that people have lost around one lakh cattle during the NEM rains.
“The agricultural workers have been left without jobs for the past couple of months. The government should also provide financial aid to the families to prevent them from starving,” Shanmugam added.
PROTEST POSTPONED AFTER INVITATION FOR TALKS
The protesting farmers and agricultural workers were detained in the Kanyakumari district while the sit-in protest continued till evening in Nagapattinam, Tiruvallur, Thanjavur, Mayiladuthurai, Cuddalore, Vizhupuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Perambalur, and Tenkasi districts.
The farmers and agricultural workers submitted a detailed memorandum of damage to crops and loss of cattle to the district collectors during the protests.
“The officials promised to look into the demands and asked to withdraw the protests immediately. But we informed them of continuing the protest until the government responds to the demands,” said K P Perumal, state treasurer of AIKS Tamil Nadu unit who led the protest in Cuddalore.
Later in the evening, the minister for agriculture in the government of Tamil Nadu held telephonic talks with leaders of AIKS and AIAWU to arrange for discussions to deliberate on their demands.
“The protests were postponed after the minister’s invitation to talks for a detailed discussion in the secretariat on January 7. The representatives of the unions will participate to raise the demands including an increase in compensation for paddy and fair compensation for other crops and cattle,” Shanmugam said.
SUDDEN RAINS DAMAGE CROPS
In yet another setback to the farmers, heavy rains lashed Chennai, its surroundings, and delta districts from December 30. The rain extended for two days in the delta districts. The unexpected continuous and intense rain damaged the paddy crops ready for harvest and the newly sown crops as well.
Crops in around 13,000 acres in Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai districts were submerged in rainwater. Around 50,000 paddy sacks kept outside the paddy procurement centres in these districts were drenched in rains, leading to further setbacks to the farmers. Because of this, the demand for permanent procurement centres with sufficient storage space continues to be the dream of the farmers.