100 farmers from Tamil Nadu are camping out in Jantar Mantar demanding that the government take note of their plight. As the state faces a severe drought, crops have been failing and more than 200 farmers have committed suicide. Although largely ignored by the national media, the Tamil press has some coverage of the protest that is gaining momentum on social media among local youth. Along with issues like the Neduvasal hydrocarbon project and the jallikattu issue earlier this year, the famers’ protest has captured the imagination of many.
This article in Vikatan provides details of the demands raised by the farmers who belong to the Tamil Nadu Farmers, headed by state president Ayyakannu.
Drought relief must be increased; all loans to be waivered; Cauvery Management Tribunal must be formed; and Interlinking of rivers.
The article goes on to explain how the state and central governments are neglecting the farmers by providing these important statistics.
The Tamil Nadu government is asking for Rs.39,565 crores as drought relief. The centre is providing only Rs.1,748 crores. The government has so far disbursed on Rs.2,472 crores. The outstanding loans amount to Rs.86,000 crores which the central government can waiver if they want to.
While the government refuses to release the names of the companies who have defaulted crores in loans, they pay no heed to demands of farmers who are dying.
The Hindu –Tamil has covered the agitation since 13th March when the farmers assembled at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi’s protest venue. According to this report from 29th March, several leaders and political groups have met the farmers and expressed their support – including farmers associations from the delta region, AAP leaders, Yogendra Yadav of the Swaraj party, Thol Thirumavalavan of VCK and members of the jallikattu protest group. Objections were raised by the leadership of the protesting farmers to slogans against the Tamil Nadu government.
Members of both factions of the AIADMK, including the Deputy Speaker Thambidurai, Agriculture Minister Duraikannu, met with the farmers. They made arrangements for a meeting with the Finance Minister, Home Minister and the Agriculture Minister. Therefore slogans against the Tamil Nadu government were prevented.
Puthiya Thalaimurai covered the continuing protests in Jantar Mantar. On Day 17, the farmers tied their hands and blindfolded themselves saying that that the central government had led them to this situation. One of the farmers was admitted the hospital with low blood pressure said that despite his ill health, he would not go home and would continue to protest. One of the main demands is that loans be waivered. The farmers also said that leaders from all political parties came to support them and that the government’s apathy to the farmers had become clear to the entire nation. As more farmers from other districts made their way to Delhi, there are no signs of the struggle dithering.
Daily Thanti also reported that 25 members of the Naam Tamizhar group were arrested in Sivagangai for taking part in a rail rokko.
Actors Vishal and Prakash Raj visited the farmers and took part in the protest where farmers displayed the skulls of their those who had omitted suicide. Vishal, who also heads the Nadigar Sangam said that they received a video of the farmers struggling and came immediately to offer their support. News 7 spoke to Prakash Raj who said that he hoped their presence would draw attention of the national media to the problems of farmers. He was also critical of the Prime Minister and the central government who said that while crores of rupees were given to corporates as tax breaks, the farmers would need not only one-fourth of that money for a permanent solution to their problems.
L.Renuka Devi of The Hindu interviewed the women farmers who were taking part of the protests. Most of them, above 60 years old, said that they were unable to pay back the loans and were being harassed by the bank officials. Rajalakshmi, 64, from Veerali village said that she used to travel almost 20kms each day to get water for her fields. She borrowed money to construct a bore well which failed to yield water due to which her crops failed.
In a survey conducted in four districts of the state, it was found that contrary to the popular view that farmers are given too many freebies, most farmers survive on credit from private banks. According to the head of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Protection Association only 11% of the agricultural land receives cooperative credit. Most farmers interviewed said that not only is the cooperative credit inadequate, but is also wrought with bureaucratic delays. In an article on the findings of the survey Prema Revathi and Senthil Babu write –
The delta farmer is convinced that he has to farm, because everyone else has got to eat, and his sense of vocation is what goads him on to persist in raising his crop, even if that means he has to borrow at every turn of the agricultural cycle. The slow yet relentless disregard for the farmer’s fate that is now written into state policy and common sense has meant that to farm is to get indebted.
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