Muzaffarnagar: At what can be called the largest congregation of farmers and agriculture workers in the recent history of Northern India, the farmers’ leaders iterated that the ongoing agitation against three central farm laws will continue if the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fails to fulfil their demands. They also gave a clarion call to observe Bharat Bandh on September 27.
The Kisan Mahapanchayat that concluded here on Sunday saw massive participation of farmers and farmers’ organisations as the Govt. Inter College ground -- the venue of the congregation -- was adorned with several colourful flags of hundreds of unions. The Mahapanchayat was significant in the context of the upcoming Assembly polls in the two Northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said, “These meetings will be held across the country. We have to stop the country from getting sold. Farmers should be saved, the country should be saved; businesses, employees and youth should be saved. This is the aim of the rally.” Leaders like Medha Patkar and Yogendra Yadav were seen on the dais. Yadav was given a yellow robe by Tikait, while the BKU leader was presented a mace at the event.
A woman farmer leader from Karnataka addressed the gathering in Kannada language.
One of the participants blew a ‘ransingha’ (trumpet), the photograph of which was posted by the Kisan Ekta Morcha on Twitter.
“In old times, when the fight was for honour and respect, this instrument [ransingha] was used. Today, a call has been given for war by all ‘kisan majdoor’ unions against the BJP’s ‘corporate raj’,” it tweeted in Hindi.
The Congress, too, voiced support for the mahapanchayat with party leader Rahul Gandhi saying the call of truth is echoing and an "unjust government" will have to listen.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said that the "arrogance of power" cannot withstand the roar of the farmers.
Meanwhile, participation of the youths at the congregation was one of the highlights with youths overseeing several tasks such as crowd management and distribution of food in the poll-bound state.
One such youth, Shivam Punia, who came along with his friends from Meerut, told NewsClick: “They should come here to see what our numbers are. Millions have come here to say only one thing: repeal the farm laws. What are our elders earning? Nothing! Our payments have been held by the mill owners for more than a year. We are not getting any jobs. Inflation is at an all-time high and there is an ignorant government which is not listening to its own citizens!”
Naresh Kumar, who stood near the outer gates of the ground, narrated his experience of potato cultivation and maintained that he has only sunk deeper in debt. “They said that our incomes would double by 2022. We are just three months away from next year. The reality is that I took a loan of three lakh rupees to cultivate potatoes. When I sowed potatoes, they were getting sold at Rs 50 per kg. When I harvested the potatoes, they were being sold at Rs 2 per kg. How can common farmers survive in this uncertainty?”
Kumar, however, felt hopeful with the success of the Mahapanchayat. He added, “You see here what real India is and how it looks. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs... All have gathered to show their universal identity.”
Monu, another youth, told NewsClick that the movement is bound to continue and grow as the repression by the government has only grown. He said, “In Punjab, farmers get free electricity. In Uttar Pradesh, you have to pay a fixed charge of Rs 2,210 per month even when we do not use a single unit of power. I often hear that the price of sugarcane has not been increased. I want the government to decrease it but it should ensure that we get affordable education and health services. For Modi and their ministers, AIIMS is available free of cost. For ordinary citizens, they need to queue up for days to get treatment.”
Samyukta Kisan Morcha – under whose banner Sunday’s congregation was organised – said that the government of Uttar Pradesh is using the policy of 'divide and rule' and communal policy of caste and religion employed earlier by the colonial British government. It said that this Mahapanchayat is sending a warning to the central and the state government. If, despite the unity of all castes, religions, and classes of farmers, the government does not repeal all three agricultural laws and does not give legal guarantee for the purchase of agricultural products, then the movement will be intensified. The leaders of the SKM said that a plan for the struggle on the issue of unemployment would soon be made.
The morcha, in a statement, said that the promises made by the Yogi government to the farmers have not been fulfilled. Even 20% of the promised procurement has not been done. The UP government had promised loan waiver for 86 lakh farmers, while only 45 lakh farmers have received the loan waiver.
The central government agency CACP has found that in the year 2017, the cost of sugarcane was Rs 383 per quintal, but farmers were paid Rs 325 per quintal, and sugarcane mills owe farmers Rs 8,700 crore. In Uttar Pradesh, crop insurance was paid to 72 lakh farmers in the year 2016-17, while in 2019-20, only 47 lakh farmers were paid, where crop insurance companies earned a profit of Rs 2,508 crore. The Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat has decided to announce an agitation in the upcoming meeting of the SKM demanding a rate of ₹ 450 per quintal for sugarcane as promised by the Uttar Pradesh government.
(With inputs from PTI)