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Jantar Mantar witnesses thousands of farmers as Jai Kisan rally reaches Delhi

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By Ishan Kukreti

IMG_0099More than a thousand farmers from all over the country thronged the protest space at Jantar Mantar, Delhi on Monday as the Jai Kisan rally finally arrived here.

Jai Kisan Andolan, which is a part of Yogendra Yadav’s and Prashant Bhushan’s Swaraj Abhiyan, saw farmers from various states including, Telangana, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar etc gather at Jantar Mantar to let the government know of their anger.

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“The essence of Jai Kisan Andolan is to fight for the rights of the farmers. We will not let the farmers’ homes be destroyed,” former AAP member and the founding member of Swaraj Abhiyan, Yogendra Yadav summed up the totality of the moment from the stage. The number of farmers present and hundreds of pots filled with soil as a token of support from those absent did give an authority to Yadav’s words.

The Jai Kisan rally which kicked off on August 1 from Barnala, Punjab with more than five thousand farmers, travelled through Punjab, Haryana and eastern Uttar Pradesh before entering Delhi through Gurgaon, after facing a minor debacle with the police on the border.

Farmers with as diverse problems as better irrigation facilities to compensation for crop failure due to heavy rain found a common platform through the Jai Kisan Movement to raise their voice.

“There have been more than 1,100 farmer deaths in Telangana over the last year but the government is refusing to acknowledge that. We want the government to accept the problem and do something about it,” said Navin from Telangana.

IMG_0159“We want the government to provide muavza (compensation) to those who have suffered due to the heavy rains,” demanded excited Gurmeet Singh from Haryana.

IMG_0149“Bhumi adhiveshan nahi hona chahiye (There shouldn’t be land acquisition)” said a confused farmer from Rajasthan.

IMG_0093“Indian political set up is not looking into the rights, justice and dignity of the farmers. Swaraj Movement will consolidate all agrarian agitation, all problems of the farmers. The nation cannot progress unless the farmers progress. Without them, the idea of India as a superpower is a joke,” said Pankaj Pushkar, AAP MLA from Timarpur and a supporter of Swaraj Abhiyan.

While each section of farmers hailing from different states had different sets of problems, an undercurrent of suspicion and frustration with the present government ran though everyone’s grievances.

Although the involvement of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan can be deemed a political joomla given their history, the farmers who swarmed to the national capital with anger in one eye and hope in the other are clear signs that the Modi government has much to worry about. IMG_0145

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With The Elections Coming Up, Indian Government Promises Farmers Their Income Support

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers.

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Farmers, India
An Indian woman helps her farmer husband irrigate a paddy field using a traditional system, on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

With an eye on wooing voters ahead of what is expected to be a tough national election, India’s Hindu nationalist government announced cash handouts of billions of dollars for poor farmers.

In the annual budget presented in parliament Friday, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said 120 million farmers with less than two hectares of land would get an income of $85 a year.

Goyal announced that the measure, which will cost about $10.5 billion, would be implemented with immediate effect. “This will pave the way for them to earn a respectable living,” he said. “Such support will help them avoid indebtedness.”

India, Farmers
Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, center, holds a briefcase containing federal budget documents with Junior Finance ministers Shiv Pratap Shukla, center right, and Pon Radhakrishnan, left, upon their arrival at the parliament house in New Delhi, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

Farmers complain that a sharp decline in crop prices has hurt their incomes and driven millions into debt. Rural experts said they were not sure whether the measure will assuage disgruntled rural communities that have been demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce.

The government also announced a pension scheme of about $40 a month for nearly 100 million poor workers in the country’s vast unorganized sector and tax breaks for the middle classes.

The welfare measures come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party tries to address rising discontent in the country — there is growing anger in rural areas over falling crop prices and widespread worries that his government has failed to create jobs to meet the needs of the country’s huge young population.

The Bharatiya Janata Party recently lost elections in three heartland states, raising concerns it could struggle to win a majority in the upcoming elections. Modi had sailed to power in 2014 on the promise of creating millions of jobs.

Modi, India, Farmers
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

Although economic growth numbers have been good, lack of jobs has emerged as the biggest challenge for Modi. A report in the Business Standard newspaper says a government survey that has not been released pegs the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.

Expressing optimism that “India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Goyal said that infrastructure projects such as building roads in rural areas will boost employment.

The opposition Congress Party slammed the income support of $85 a year announced for farmers as inadequate. Saying that it is not going to be transformational, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “₹6000 [6,000 rupees, or $84] in income support for farmers boils down to ₹500 [500 rupees, or $7] per month. Is that supposed to enable them to live with the honor and dignity?”

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The Congress Party is also trying to woo voters with the promise of a minimum income for the poor if it wins the upcoming general election. The BJP has dismissed the pledge as unaffordable, while economists have expressed concern that the “competitive populism” by India’s two main parties ahead of general elections could strain the country’s finances.

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers. (VOA)