Farmers hit out at political parties for unfulfilled promises; wants change
Dubbed as the largest farmers' congregation in Delhi, around 35,000 farmers, from across India, converged at the Parliament Street police station Thursday after their march was stopped by the administration.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Samajwadi Party leader Dharmendra Yadav, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader S Sudhakar Reddy, AAP MP Sanjay Singh and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah were among the leaders who joined the farmers at Jantar Mantar.
Kumud, a farmer from West Bengal's Sunderbans, demanded middlemen are removed and loans waived and said all her life she has heard promises of opposition parties, but she will believe them only if they stay true to their word.
She was among the farmers, who marched to the Ramlila Ground on Thursday, took out a rally to Parliament Street Friday morning to press for their demands, including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce.
The carrot and tomato farmer undertook a 48-hour journey from the Sunderbans -- a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers -- to reach Delhi.
"I want them to remove the middlemen, they eat most of our profits and leave us nowhere. Their commission at times is 200 per cent," the 50-year-old farmer said.
She alleged that even this year, the middlemen bought tomatoes from her at Rs 5 and sold it for Rs 30 per kilogram to consumers.
"I know a number of leaders here who promised us many things, but I will believe their promise only when they fulfil it," she said.
Ram Kumar from Bihar's Sigori village said they are here to demand their rights and not ask for alms.
"I have seen all leaders who are not in power make tall promises but as soon as they come to power they have memory loss," he said.
"The protest was held to make people realise of our plight which has brought us on the brink of starvation. Even if a fraction of the promises made to us are fulfilled then we would not return back to Delhi to protest," the framer said.
Srinivas, who came from Telangana with his 15 family members to participate in the rally, said it is their warning to not only the BJP but to all political parties that they should not be considered weak.
"We can topple the government if needed. We must be taken seriously," he said.
Another farmer from Punjab said he is hopeful by the promises but time and again they have been cheated so till their loans are waived and they get remunerative prices for their produce they would not be sitting at peace.
The farmers' march in the morning through the streets of the national capital with their respective outfit flags and chanted slogans, only to be stopped at the police station.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said leaders of all opposition parties stand united with farmers in ensuring their good future and called for a farm loan waiver.
He also asserted that no one will be able to silence the voice of farmers and youth and said if the Indian government insults them, then they will ensure its removal.
Farmers are not seeking a "free gift" from the government by asking for a farm loan waiver. They are only asking for what's due to them, Gandhi said.
Delhi chief minister Kejriwal claimed that the Centre had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, saying it would not implement the M S Swaminathan Commission report.
"The government had also made a lot of promises to farmers in last elections (2014), but it has not fulfilled those promises.
"By not implementing the Swaminathan Commission report, Modi ji has stabbed the farmers in their back ('kisano ke peeth mey chhura bhonka hai')," he alleged.
Kejriwal alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has "stabbed farmers in the back" by not fulfilling the promises made to them and warned him that they would "wreak havoc" in 2019 general elections if those promises are not kept.
The farmers began their march to Parliament Street around 10.30 am amid heavy policy deployment. Over 3,500 police personnel have been deployed on the route of the march.
(With inputs from agencies.)