The country witnessed a new uprising as hundreds of men and women, young and old marched on to the streets of Mumbai with blistered feet, torn clothes and tired bodies. The long march that redefined the core ideas of farmers protest in the country had been driven by the ideals of the Mahatma himself.
Farmers’ suicides have been an issue that has taken the administrative system of different parts of the country by storm. As per the Central Government, despite a multi-pronged approach to improving income and social security of farmers, over 12,000 suicides were reported in the agricultural sector every year since 2013. Farmers’ suicides account for approximately 10% of all suicides in India. There is no denying that the menace exists and runs counter to the aspirations of reaping the benefits of our demographic dividend. In India, seven states account for 87.5% of total suicides in the farming sector which are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The issue has been prominent among both large scale and small scale farmers apart from farm labourers which depict the intensity of the issue.
The farmer’s protests with demands including farm loan waiver and MSP has been echoing across the political spectrum post the INC initiative of “Kissan Mang Patra” in U.P. Since then, the unified protests by farmers across the country had found resonance with various state governments, who tried to come up with possible solutions including loan waivers.
The core driving idea of these protests have been an amalgamation of socialism along with the Gandhian ideas of self-development, socio-economic equality and non-violent organised protests. The protests depicted a unique property, which differentiates it from the modern-day movements as it was not centred on a single leader/organisation. Adhering to the idea that Gandhiji put forward in his book related “constructive programs for a better India” which suggests farmer empowerment by not making them a political tool has largely reflected throughout these protests.
The plight of farmers has depleted over the years due to the lack of proper implementation of plans and development systems which haven’t provided adequate importance to the development of the people who toil hard to feed the country. The demands of these protests have primarily been on the lines of providing basic facilities and financial support for these communities to sustain, which is reflective of the fact that there is an impending need to device a development model with villages at its core. The idea of financial sustenance for farmers can be only developed by implementing the Gandhian ideals of developed villages and attaining self-sufficiency by promoting the use and production of “desi” commodities.
The relevance of Gandhiji even in modern India is a testimony to the fact that he was a leader who understood the pulse of the country in its most minute aspects and across its most diverse places. As the country witnesses the wrath of the most underdeveloped and unprivileged sections, Gandhiji’s ideas of a self-sustenance and financial equality are again brought to the limelight.
The protest was unique in its own right as for the first time it brought the divide between urban and rural India to the forefront, without hiding the inconvenient realities. Farmers walked into cities demanding answers for their concerns. The ideas of non-violence and sacrifice that Gandhiji preached throughout his lifetime was the single most important driving factor for a movement which otherwise was built on the core ideas of socialism. The modern world even today, after 73 years requires his vision to create a model society, the ideas that he preached still holds the power to fight the plague that has engulfed the country.