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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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India to Set up Bio-Gas Plants to Tackle Pollution, but Experts Unsure

India Plans Bio-Gas Plants to Tackle Toxic Pollution, But Experts Skeptical

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Farmer India
An Indian farmer walks through his paddy field as he burns the paddy husk in Chandigarh, India. VOA

India is planning to set up more than 100 bio-gas plants and provide thousands of farmers with machines to dispose of crop stubble in a bid to halt the choking crop-burning pollution that blights the country every winter.

A major source of the smog that engulfs vast swathes of northern India, including the capital New Delhi, is the burning the straw and stubble of the previous rice crop to prepare for new planting in October and November.

New Delhi is regularly judged to be one of the world’s most polluted major cities.

Government-backed Indian Oil Corp Ltd will invite private companies to apply to set up 140 bio-gas plants that will use rice stubble as feed stock, said two government officials, who didn’t wish to be identified in line with official policy.

The plants would cost 35 billion rupees ($487.67 million) and each would require two tons of crop residue every hour for at least 300 days to produce “an optimum amount” of compressed natural gas (CNG), one of the sources said.

The government would earmark funds for the project that would make it attractive for farmers to sell their waste rather than burn it, they said.

India pollution
A woman crosses a railway line on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India. VOA

The stubble pollution has become more acute in recent years because mechanized harvesters leave more residue than crops plucked by hand.

Other than helping farmers sell their residue to the new bio-gas plants, the government would provide 100,000 new machines every year to farmers to dispose of the farm waste in their fields, the sources said.

“We’ll give farmers the choice to either get rid of crop residue or sell it to the bio CNG plants,” one of the sources said.

Doubts persist

Environmental experts were skeptical.

Also Read- Pollution-Linked Deaths Highest in India: Study

“Given the amount of resources that the government has, what will decide the efficacy of this plan is consistent engagement with farmers,” said Nandikesh Sivalingam, a program manager for Greenpeace.

“But if you expect results next winter, it can’t happen.” (VOA)