Farmers' union threatens to go on six-month farming holiday
The members of Bhartiya Kisan Union on Tuesday threatened to take a six-month holiday every year for 10 years from framing if the government fails to take note of the hardship faced by farmers over rising prices and acquisition of farm land for commercial activity.
Rakesh Tikait of Uttar Pradesh said with increasing input costs, farmers were finding it difficult to cultivate round the year. “If the government does not pay attention, we will be forced to take a six-month holiday every year and the government will be responsible for jeopardising food security.”
The farmers, who held a demonstration here, demanded strong State support for small and marginal growers and food producers, as well as a decent social security in villages. The farmers came from several States including, Tamil nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. Women farmers also participated.
In their memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the farm leaders charged the United Progressive Alliance government with promoting policies of runaway industrialisation, privatisation and urbanisation at a time when the country was facing climate threat and increasing hunger. “The land needed to produce food is increasingly turning into elite housing complexes and shopping malls and other profitable ventures.”
Protesting the over 30 Free Trade Agreements that have being signed, the farmers said they will hold “grave consequences” for rural producers. Between 1995 and 2010, about 2.5 lakh farmers had committed suicide due to unjust policies, they alleged.
Expressing their solidarity with protests against unfair anti-people policies of economic liberalisation, they sought pro-people, democratic and economically-just policies.
Bemoaning the increasing cost of cultivation, they sought a minimum support price of Rs. 2250 per quintal for wheat, Rs. 2200 per quintal for paddy and Rs. 5000 per quintal for sugarcane.
Their other demands included, support for turmeric farmers, direct fertiliser subsidy to farmers, separate policy for dry-land farming, comprehensive crop insurance and medical insurance for farmers and their families, education facilities in rural areas, ban on private seed company, research in public agricultural universities, and a ban on Biotechnology Regulation Authority as it was perceived to be a “clearing house” for genetically modified organisms.
Seeking a separate budget for agriculture, the farmers wanted Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to be linked to agriculture in peak farming season. There should be price controls and stronger penalties against offending seed companies in the proposed Seeds Bill and reduction in interest of farm loans to four per cent. Saying ‘no' to acquisition of farm land for private purposes, the farmers demanded a new Land Acquisition Act to support real public purposes and people's development.
The BKU signatories to the memorandum included, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal (Punjab), Gurnam Singh (Haryana), S.S. Cheema (Uttrakhand), Rakesh Tikait (U.P.), Yudhvir Singh (Delhi), Chukki Nanjundaswamy (Karnataka Rajya Ryot Sangha), K.S. Puttanaiah (Karnataka), Vijay Jawandhia (Shetkari Sangathan, Maharashtra), S. Kannaiyan (South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements) and Seila Mutthu (Tamil Nadu Farmers' Association).