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Indian Peasants Threaten Government with Nationwide Uprising against the Recent Killings in MP

The MSP is a fixed price at which the government purchases crops from farmers so they don’t suffer extreme losses in case of low yields

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Indian farmers
Indian farmers gather on a footpath during a protest in Chennai where they demanded profitable prices for their crops, June 9, 2017. Benar News
  • Peasant leaders across India threatened on Friday to launch nationwide protests against the recent killings of five farmers by police in Madhya Pradesh
  • The MSP is a fixed price at which the government purchases crops from farmers so they don’t suffer extreme losses in case of low yields
  • MSP is a fixed price at which the government purchases crops from farmers

Mumbai, June 06, 2017: Peasant leaders across India threatened on Friday to launch nationwide protests against the recent killings of five farmers by police in Madhya Pradesh state during an agitation over unfulfilled government promises.

On Tuesday, farmers in the central Indian state’s Mandsaur district had come out on the streets demanding loan waivers and a hike in the minimum support price (MSP), when police opened fire, killing five protesters and injuring dozens. The state’s government has confirmed that the five died from police fire.

The MSP is a fixed price at which the government purchases crops from farmers so they don’t suffer extreme losses in case of low yields.

“We have already issued an ultimatum to the BJP-government in Maharashtra for a total loan waiver and a hike in the MSP,” Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana (SSS), an influential union based in Maharashtra state, told BenarNews.

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“Leading peasant organizations will hold a meeting in New Delhi on July 16 to chalk out a strategy,” Shetti said, adding that “intensifying the stir was very much on the cards.”

Reports of sporadic violence, arson and road blockades by agitating farmers in Madhya Pradesh kept trickling through on Friday, despite a curfew clamped by the state government the day before.

On Thursday, the police detained Rahul Gandhi, the principal leader of the political opposition to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), while he and his Indian National Congress (INC) party colleagues were attempting to enter Mandsaur district.

The rightwing nationalist BJP government accused opposition leaders of instigating the farmers.

“[The government is] sensitive to the needs of farmers and [is] doing everything to meet the farmers’ demands and end protests,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters in New Delhi, while declining to respond to questions on the farmers’ killings.

M. Venkaiah Naidu, a senior BJP leader, slammed opposition parties for what he described as “politicizing” the farmers’ anger.

“The protests are being fueled [by opposition parties] to tarnish the image the BJP government,” Naidu told reporters in south India’s Tamil Nadu state.

‘If the hay is dry’

But not many are buying BJP’s barbs at its opposition.

“If the hay is dry then a single match can set the entire field on fire. This is what is happening in the rural areas where farmers have become a dying breed because of lop-sided government policies,” political commentator Rakshit Sonawane told BenarNews.

A large majority of farmers voted for the BJP, which had promised them relief, during election campaigns, said scholar Pravin Nadkar, who has spent more than three decades in India’s hinterlands studying agrarian issues.

“The sinking of these promises is a slap on their hopes,” Nadkar told BenarNews.

“Moreover, there has been a tectonic shift by successive governments from agriculture to industrialization. Not that the farmer earlier lived an idyllic life, but today, even a big landholding farmer is facing the sting of this paradigm shift. And alienation is high,” he said.

More than 12,000 farmers in India commit suicide every year because of failed crops or unpaid debt, according to government figures.

“The government is totally indifferent toward the problems farmers face,” Kishore Tiwari, leader of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, which has been documenting farmer suicides in Maharashtra, told BenarNews.

“Loan waiver for farmers was the BJP’s promise during all its election campaigns,” he added.

“A hike in the MSP is a key solution for the farmers’ woes, but the government has come out with an excuse that it does not have requisite infrastructure like gunny bags and warehouses to purchase from farmers at a high MSP. So the farmer is left with no exit other than agitate,” Tiwari said. (Benar News)

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Know About The Psychologists Team Helping To Prevent Farmers’ Suicides in Parts of Telangana

"The farmers are victims of circumstances, economic disparity and farm related issues. With no way to repay their loans, they suffer harassment at the hands of private money lenders and banks and the constant worry of how will I repay debts and manage my family haunts them."

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farmers
"Sometimes, farmers in distress may not approach us as seeking help is considered a stigma. Then we decided to have field teams who would speak to farmers," she said. Pixabay

Not satisfied with her cozy job at a corporate hospital here, a psychologist joined a team that is helping to prevent farmers’ suicides in parts of Telangana.

Shruti Naik wanted to explore the area of rural distress and found the task more challenging.

Her experience in three districts of Telangana that reported the highest cases of farmers’ suicides in the country has helped her understand the problem.

“I realized how severe the problem is and how misconceptions get propagated in the outside world,” Naik told IANS at the office of the ‘Kisan Mitra’ helpline at Tarnaka here.

farmer
The problems of tenant farmers is a huge issue in Telangana. They are not covered under the ‘Rythu Bandhu’ scheme being implemented by the state government to provide investment support of Rs 8,000 per acre per year. Pixabay

“The farmers are victims of circumstances, economic disparity and farm related issues. With no way to repay their loans, they suffer harassment at the hands of private money lenders and banks and the constant worry of how will I repay debts and manage my family haunts them.”

Kisan Mitra, run by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, an NGO, provides last mile delivery of services to farmers with respect to their entitlements. It serves as a bridge between government and farmers and tries to see that issues faced by farmers are resolved which otherwise would make them to go into distress.

It was started in 2017 in Vikarabad district at the initiative of then District Collector Divya Devarajan, who suggested that the NGO should take up the matter.

However, they realized that it was not just the helpline which was required.

“Sometimes, farmers in distress may not approach us as seeking help is considered a stigma. Then we decided to have field teams who would speak to farmers,” she said.

The helpline expanded its activity to Adilabad, a backward district bordering Maharashtra, after Devarajan was transferred there as the Collector. Subsequently, it also began its activities in Mancherial district.

“We have so far received 8,000 calls relating to problems like land issues, crop related, payments, loans and banker-related issues. We tried to resolve 4,000 cases. Not all were in distress. The idea is to solve problems before they go into distress,” said Naik.

She heads a team of seven members, all women. The counselors who receive the calls take down the details of the farmers and forward them to the respective field-level coordinators for follow-up.

It is also working with the government to rehabilitate the families of farmers who committed suicide. On International Women’s Day last year in Adilabad district, it called a meeting of 120 widows and their families. They were provided alternative livelihood with the government’s support.

farmer
“If they get some handholding they will do well. If they are helped in areas like minimum support price and if there is some awareness created about debt management, they will not resort to suicides.” Pixabay

The problems of tenant farmers is a huge issue in Telangana. They are not covered under the ‘Rythu Bandhu’ scheme being implemented by the state government to provide investment support of Rs 8,000 per acre per year.

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Studies show that 75 per cent of farmers who commit suicide in Telangana are tenant farmers. Kisan Mitra has helped 5,000 tenant farmers in Adilabad obtain loan eligibility cards. It negotiated with some bankers to form joint liability groups with 4-5 in each group. The groups were provided loans of Rs 1 lakh each.

Naik believes depression among farmers is a consequence of circumstances and farm and finance related issues. “If they get some handholding they will do well. If they are helped in areas like minimum support price and if there is some awareness created about debt management, they will not resort to suicides,” she said. (IANS)