After Maharashtra, farmers of 4 more states on protests from 1 June

Mumbai: Farmers in election-bound Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as well as those in Punjab and Haryana will join their counterparts in Maharashtra to launch a strike from 1 June. The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, a farmers’ organization affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, has declared a farmer protest in Maharashtra from 1 June to mark the first anniversary of a farmers’ strike.

Now, farmers’ unions and organizations spread over Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, have declared support to the Maharashtra farmers and announced agitations.

Kedar Sirohi, founder-member of Aam Kisan Union in Madhya Pradesh that spearheaded a powerful protest in parts of Madhya Pradesh in June last year, said in an interview that farmers in the state would launch “strike” and “gram bandi” (village shutdown) campaign from 1 June.

“Like-minded farmers’ groups and organizations would launch similar protests in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. Except for some local issues, farmers’ concerns and demands are the same across India and there is a need to come together to raise our voice and stand as a single constituency of farmers,” Sirohi said.

On 10 April, the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha at its Maharashtra executive council’s meeting decided to launch the protest from 1 June. It plans to collect 100 million signatures of farmers, farm labourers and tribals on a memorandum of demands to be sent to the Prime Minister’s office.

In Maharashtra, the demands made by the Kisan Sabha include implementation of recommendations made by the M. S. Swaminathan Commission in 2006, a complete farm loan waiver and electricity bill waiver without conditions, legal provision guaranteeing minimum support price (MSP) that is 1.5 times the cost of production of farm produce, effective implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights ) Act, 2006, and provision of pension to farmers and farm labourers.

Sirohi said farmers in Madhya Pradesh wanted reforms in the crop insurance scheme and the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (Price Deficit Financing Scheme) to cover more crops, farm loan waiver, guarantee of an assured income for farmers, legal mechanism to ensure payment of MSP which is 1.5 times the cost of production, and guarantee of full procurement of farm produce.

“We plan to stop the supply of farm produce like vegetables, fruits, milk, poultry products, and food grains from villages to cities from 1 June,” Sirohi said. He added that the Union had already launched a powerful social media campaign to reach out to farmers and like-minded organisations. In the Aam Kisan Union’s June 2017 protest in Madhya Pradesh, social media outreach played an important role.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are scheduled to go to polls by the end of this year. The BJP also rules Maharashtra and Haryana while Punjab has a Congress government. In Madhya Pradesh, farm issues have taken centrestage. Five farmers were killed in police firing in Mandsaur last year, causing much embarrassment to the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.livemint

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