Tribals have got a new supporter in Rahul Gandhi. On Monday, the Congress Vice-president brought much cheer to the tribals by voicing that their land should not be taken away for any purpose without permission.
Arriving at the Bilaspur airport on Monday, Gandhi was welcomed by Congress workers. After the arrival, he went to Madanpur village, in the Korba district of Chhattisgarh, where he addressed the tribals and villagers.
Contending that the nation’s welfare must include the tribals’ welfare, Gandhi accused the current government of being a “suit-boot ki sarkar.”
“We want a government that works for the welfare of the under-privileged section of the society”, said Gandhi.
“Lands are being taken away from the farmers forcibly and we are totally opposed to this. Forests are an integral part of tribals’ and farmers’ livelihood, and if forests vanish, then farmer’s livelihood would also vanish,” Gandhi added.
Pledging his support to the tribal people, Gandhi said that his party would always support poor people and keep fighting for their rights. He also discussed various issues with the farmers.
Indian police on Tuesday fired tear gas and water cannons to halt and scatter a march by thousands of protesting farmers heading for the capital New Delhi to demand better prices for their produce.
Reeling from a crash in commodity prices, more than 50,000 farmers from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a top producer of wheat and cane, blocked part of the main highway to the capital.
They also sought loan waivers, cheaper power and tougher action to get sugar mills to pay dues owed for their cane, as discontent in rural areas turns to anger against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces tough general elections next year.
“Despite our repeated requests, the government has failed to help farmers in any meaningful ways,” a farm leader, Dharmendra Malik, told Reuters by telephone from the protest site.
“Left with no choice, we’ve decided to march to Delhi to highlight our plight.”
Cash-strapped sugar companies owe cane growers about 135 billion rupees ($1.9 billion) in the current season. Saddled with huge piles of sugar and hit by a fall in prices, mills have said they are unable to pay farmers on time.
“The state government has initiated a number of steps to help farmers, including a clutch of measures to expedite cane payments to growers,” Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told video news agency ANI, a Reuters affiliate.
Mills are struggling to export sugar because of lower global prices, Adityanath said.
Television broadcast images of angry farmers clashing with police and driving their tractors into security barriers, in a protest that disrupted rush-hour traffic.
Some farmers were injured when police fired tear gas and water cannon to keep protesters from breaking through barricades to reach New Delhi, the site of events to mark the birth anniversary of India’s apostle of non violence, Mahatma Gandhi.
“It’s ironical that the farmers were brutally beaten on the day of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary,” opposition leader Rahul Gandhi said.
Farmers had started trickling into the city late on Monday, prompting authorities to bar gatherings of more than four people.
The government has allowed police to “brutally beat up” the farmers, said the opposition Congress party, which ruled India for most of its 70 years since independence from Britain, before losing power to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.