India is facing an agrarian crisis. Its victims are fighting back. This time the middle classes must make themselves relevant.
On 29th and 30th of November, 2018, almost one lakh farmers from all over India will participate in the All India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee (AIKSCC) organised Kisan Mukti March to Delhi. To supplement their efforts, Nation for Farmers, a solidarity group has been mobilising urban, middle class citizens across the country in order to highlight that the agrarian crisis is, in fact, a national one.
In a situation where over three lakh farmers have committed suicide in our country in the last 20 years, the agrarian crisis is no more about food security but a crisis of our civilization itself. It is these very farmers who save the country from falling on a ship-to-mouth existence, thereby securing the country’s food sovereignity, even if their grave food security, their daily losing struggles of our
The Kisan Mukti March is not without any precedent. It has been inspired by the actions of farmers, agricultural labourers and displaced workers from Maharashtra, Rajasthan Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and countless millions across the country whose just demands have been met not just by successive governments’ apathy, but also their increasingly brutal antipathy.
However, this time, the AIKSCC is demanding statute based rights for farmers and agricultural workers through the passing of two Kisan Mukti Bills – The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018 and The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill 2018 . The drafts of the Kisan Mukti Bills were first tabled in the Kisan Mukti Sansad of women farmers on November 20th, 2017 and have now been introduced in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as private members’ bills.
Nation for Farmers recognises the importance of these Kisan Mukti Bills that address the problem of skewed minimum support prices and the loan waivers, an important aspect of the mounting credit crisis. We join the AIKSCC in asking for a special 21-day joint session of parliament on the agrarian crisis where both these bills can be passed. Additionally, we would want the special session to discuss the mega water and credit crisis, a discussion on the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report and the rights of landless agricultural labourers, women farmers and minority, Dalit and Adivasi agricultural workers.
This widely popular petition asking for a special session, has garnered support through creative networks of circulation and gestures of solidarity across class lines. Responding to the proactive mobilisation done by Mumbai’s Nation for Farmers group and Kalu Komaskar, the leader of the Lal Bavta Auto-Rickshaw Union of Dombvili, auto rickshaw drivers in the region are requesting their customers to sign and post copies of the Dilli Chalo petition to the President of India. Similarly, most of the rural branches of the Bank of Maharashtra have publically displayed a copy of the petition, thereby collecting signatures both from their employees as well as their customers, many of whom are deeply affected by the agrarian crisis. The students and faculty of Delhi University have stood for days at the entrance of the Vishwa Vidyalaya metro station during peak exam season, using the petition as a tool to generate awareness on the severity of the agrarian crisis. Doctors from Tamil Nadu, helping in relief efforts in Tamil Nadu after the devastation wrecked by Cyclone Gaja are paying fare journeys for the state’s resilient farmers to go in their stead.
This diversity of support for nation for farmers activities, which also includes organising teach-ins, holding public meetings, creating artwork, producing parchas, and photo stories on the agrarian crisis and related issues, has been heartening. This solidarity will be visible on the 30th of November – as doctors, lawyers, journalists, retired servicemen, photographers, bankers, teachers, students, artists, techies, writers, engineers –all band together under the “Nation for Farmers” banner and march with the farmers from Ram Lila Maidan to Parliament street between 8- 11 a.m.
Similarly, on the 29th of November, students from across the country, particularly from the four large public-funded universities of Delhi – Delhi University, Ambedkar University, Jawahar Lal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia, will constitute the backbone of our volunteer effort as they welcome and greet the farmers and agricultural workers marching from the four corners of Delhi to Ram Lila Maidan. The dynamic ‘artists for farmers’ group , which has been mobilising, fundraising and conducting numerous run-up events in support of the march, will further engage and perform for the farmers after their arrival on Ram Lila Ground as part of a cultural programme organised in their honour. (Click here to see the full programme schedule)
While our volunteers have donated their time and labour to lend solidarity to the march, they have also mobilised many generous donations in support of our ‘nation for farmers’ activities. This will also go towards financially supporting the Kisan Mukti March by providing provisions of first aid kits and food for our anna dattas.
As we look forward to the success of the Kisan Mukti March and the enthusiastic participation of many rural and urban citizens, we hope to cultivate these new and fertile forms of solidarity through the work of our volunteer solidarity group.
Nation for Farmers