On Movement Anniversary, SKM to Hold Marches to Raj Bhawans, Press for Farm Loan Waivers, Pension
New Delhi: In a bid to revive its national movement a year after the Narendra Modi – led Central government withdrew the three contentious farm laws, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) on Thursday announced a slew of agitational programmes for the coming days, terming them as “the beginning of the next phase of the farmers’ protest”.
The farmers will press for a loan waiver scheme, restructuring of the existing crop insurance scheme and a pension for those with marginal land holdings and agricultural workers, in addition to reminding the Centre of the unfulfilled promises, said SKM, the body of over 500 farmers’ unions across the country, in a press conference held at Press Club of India.
The SKM, “strongly condemned the Modi Government for betraying the farmers by not implementing the written assurances made on 9 December 2021 on legally guaranteed MSP, withdrawal of the Electricity Bill among others, though almost one year has now passed,” a press statement, released after the conference, read.
It added that “in view of the callous responses” of the Centre, it was decided in the last meeting of the SKM’s constituent organisations, held earlier this month at Gurudwara Sri Rakab Ganj Sahib, to “intensify” the protests, while focusing now on “massive protest-gatherings beginning from village level”.
Last year, on November 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a video address to the nation, announced the withdrawal of the three farm legislations, the passage of which prompted farmers' organisations from across the country to launch an agitation which saw a year-long sit-in protest at the outskirts of the national capital.
To commemorate its first anniversary, the SKM has announced celebrating the said day as “Fateh Diwas” or “Victory Day” this year. The farmers’ body has also given a national call to hold “March to Raj Bhawan” programmes across the country on November 26– the day when the said agitation against the farm laws was launched in the year 2020. The call is also supported by the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions.
This year’s march marks “the beginning of the next phase of the farmers’ protest,” SKM leader Darshan Pal said while addressing the media, on Thursday. “The SKM believes next year – 2023 – to be a strategic year for itself and we have resolved to fight with determination for all of our demands,” he said.
Explaining the demands, Ashok Dhawale of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), a constituent of SKM, said that it was collectively decided to press for three more demands, in addition to the four unfilled promises that the Centre had made while withdrawing the three farm legislations.
As per the press statement, this includes “freedom from indebtedness” through a loan waiver scheme; a “comprehensive and effective” crop insurance scheme to “speedily compensate” farmers for crop loss due to natural calamities; and, a farmers’ pension worth Rs. 5,000 per month to all marginal, small, and medium scale farmers and agricultural workers.
“Legally guaranteed MSP for all crops and freedom from indebtedness are the major demands that the farmers have been fighting for since the roll-out of neo-liberal policies that aggravated the agrarian crisis,” Dhawale argued, underscoring that since 1995 more than four lakh farmers in the country have committed suicide and around 68% of the peasant households are indebted and are in financial distress.
In view of the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections, which are scheduled to take place in December, the SKM on Thursday also issued an appeal to voters to ask different political parties about their stand on the former’s demands. “We want all the political parties to clarify their stand on our demands. We appeal to the voters of Gujarat to not vote for a party which is anti-farmer,” said Hannan Mollah of AIKS.
It was also announced that from December 1-11, multiple marches to the offices of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs, along with MLAs of all the political parties, will be held demanding them to bring up the issue of farmers’ demands for debate in the Parliament or State Assemblies.
“In the coming days, the farmers’ movement will get decentralised and will spread across the country, as opposed to what we saw earlier – which was a Delhi-centric movement that was participated by organisations from all over the nation,” said Avik Saha, national president, Jai Kisan Andolan. He also said that the next meeting of the SKM is scheduled to take place on December 8, at Haryana’s Karnal in which further decisions will be made.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, SKM also condemned the Modi government’s “hurried attempt” to clear the GM-Mustard seeds “without adequate scientific research on the impact on environment, nature and on the life of humans and livestock.”
Earlier last month, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s apex regulator of genetically modified plants and food products, had approved the environmental release of Dhara Mustard Hybrid – 11 (DMH-11), a genetically-engineered variant of mustard. Subsequently, the recommendation will now go for the approval of the Union Environment Ministry, which if secured, would allow for the commercial cultivation of the first genetically modified food crop in the country.
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