Farmers urge President to ‘Save Agriculture & Democracy’ (Ld)

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has sought President Ram Nath Kovind’s intervention to ‘Save Agriculture and Save Democracy’ on the occasion of the 47th anniversary of the Emergency and the completion of seven months of the ongoing farmers’ agitation, a top farmer leader said here on Thursday.

“We are sending a memorandum from all over India to the President, expressing our deep anguish and indignation, and appeal to him to protect both our agriculture and democracy,” said All India Kisan Sabha President and SKM leader Dr Ashok Dhawale.

Indian society calls farmers ‘annadaatas’ (food providers) and in the past 74 years since Independence, they fulfilled that responsibility.

“When India became Independent, we used to feed 33 crore citizens, today in the same extent of land, we manage to feed around 140 crore Indians. During the coronavirus pandemic, while the other sectors in the economy decelerated and slumped, we achieved record production in agriculture, ensured that our granaries were overflowing and risked our lives,” said the memorandum to the President.

However, in return for this service to the entire country, “the Government of India has thrust the 3 anti-farmer black laws” which will destroy our farming as well as our future generations, snatch agriculture from our hands and hand it over to big corporations, it said.

There are other swords hanging over the farmers’ heads — penalties or jail for stubble burning in a new Ordinance related to Delhi’s air pollution and subsidy withdrawal through the Electricity Amendments Bill, 2020, said Dr Dhawale.

The memorandum — which will be sent to the President through various state Governors and other channels — terms the three Central farm laws as ‘undemocratic’, created without consultations with the farmers, thrust in the form of Ordinances, tabled in Parliament before sending to Committees for further study or debates, and while pushing the Bills voting by division was not allowed in the Rajya Sabha, etc.

Dhawale added that as the first guardian of our Constitution created by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and others, the farmers had hoped that the President would refuse to give assent to such unconstitutional and undemocratic anti-farmer laws, but he (President) did not.

Seeking justice in the form of remunerative returns for their hard work and toil, the memo said that the farmers are in debt, farming has become an unviable profession and over 4 lakh peasants were compelled to commit suicide in the past 30 years.

Among other things, the memo has reiterated the farmers demands to repeal the 3 new farm laws, MSP on the basis of the M. S. Swaminathan Commission of C2 cost+50 percent with a guarantee in the legal framework.

The farmers rued that instead of fulfilling its commitments, the Centre “started a false Jumla around ‘doubling farmers incomes by 2020’, which is clearly not being achieved, and in the past 7 months, the government has broken the principles and rules of democracy in every possible way.

The farmers were stopped with boulders, sand trucks, barbed fencing, trenches, nails on highways, barricades, tear-gas or water cannons en route to the national capital (in January), slapping false cases on them, curbs put on social media, labelling the farmers as Khalistanis, Parasites or Corona Superspreaders, defaming the movement through media manipulation and sending many to jail, the memo added.

“Around 520 of our protestors (farmers) have been martyred so far. You would have seen and heard about all these things, but you had remained a mute spectator. In the past 7 months, what we witnessed and experienced first-hand reminds us of the Emergency period 46 years ago,” said the memorandum.

Today, despite facing repression, the farmers’ agitation has grown to a movement of workers, youth, students, women, minority communities, Dalits and tribals.

But, as during the Emergency, many true patriots are put in jails, draconian laws like UAPA are being misused against those who are resisting the authoritarian regime, media is shrouded in fear and favouritism while the judiciary’s freedom is under attack, human rights are violated routinely and “without declaring an Emergency, Democracy is being throttled everyday”, the memo further stated.

Reminding President Kovind of his great responsibility as the custodian of the constitutional framework, the SKM urged him to direct the Centre to immediately accept the legitimate demands of the farmers to help save both agriculture and democracy.