Tamil Nadu is 3000 kilometres away from New Delhi. The National South Indian Farmers River Interlinking Association and its leaders took to the streets of Delhi to voice their protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s apathy towards the plight of farmers. Their agitation has completed over 100 days, in which these farmers left no stone unturned to make their voice heard.
P. Aiyyakannu, the leader of this protest, says, “We are sitting on the road, agitating on the road, eating on the road and sleeping on the road. But in a democracy, it is the duty of the Prime Minister to look into it. It is the duty of the Prime Minister to hear the grievances of the farmers. But the honourable Prime Minister Modi ji does not want to hear the farmers. He thinks farmers are untouchables.”
This year, Tamil Nadu witnessed a heavy drought. The farmers borrowed loans from nationalised banks. But after cultivation, all that the farmers could harvest was withered crops. Till now, no compensation was provided to those farmers making their lives miserable. Thus suicide became the last resort for many. In this whole scenario, it’s repugnant to see the government acting as a mute spectator.
With the skulls and bones of 17 farmers exhibited in the national capital, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of more than 150 farmer groups, took the initiative of organizing Kisan Mukti Yatras across India with two primary demands viz. ‘remunerative prices computed at 50% of the cost of production’ and ‘helping/ waiving off farmers debt’, as mentioned in the M.S. Swaminathan report.
In a candid conversation with Yogendra Yadav of the Swaraj Abhiyan, one of the members of AIKSCC, he expresses that this Yatra represents the third generation of farmer-activists. Today’s farmers’ movement has to face the horrendous reality of farmers’ suicides. This new movement is erasing the traditional distinctions of landlord, peasant, sharecropper or landless farmer. The impoverishment of rural India has forced farmers’ movements to bring all sections of farmers together. “Kisan Mazdoor Ekta” has been a slogan of the Left for a long time, but it seems that this slogan has found resonance inside today’s farmers’ movements.
Among other farmer groups, the left-leaning All India Kisan Sabha, Karnataka Rajya Riatha Sangha and the National South Indian Farmers River Interlinking Association, led by P. Ayyakannu extended their support to AIKSCC. After four consecutive years of drought ravaging the state of Tamil Nadu, the second Yatra was scheduled to start from September 16, 2017, from Telangana, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
At a time when the voices of farmers are steadily diminishing from the realm of traditional media, these Yatras come as a new hope giving a firsthand experience on the piteous lives that our farmers are forced to live. The includes public meetings in Suryapeta and Khammam, and then intends to pass through the other states of the South, meeting the farmers in grief and extending solidarity towards their cause. An invitation for the farmers to participate in a Kisan Sansad, that is to be organised during the monsoon session of the Parliament in the premises of the Ramleela Maidan will be extended too.