More that a lakh peasants and agricultural labourers from 11 states across India including Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra held a massive Kisan Panchayat (Peasants Assembly) at Kisan Ghat in New Delhi on 17 March, putting forth their Charter of 11 demands. The assembly was organised and led by the Coordination Committee of Bhartiya Kisan Andolan.
Well known leaders of peasants movement attended and addressed the Panchayat, including Ch.Yudhvir Singh (BKU – Delhi), Ch. Ajmer Singh Lakhowal (BKU – Punjab), Raj Pal Puniya (BKU – Rajasthan), Rai Singh (BKU – Uttranchal), Balram Singh Lambardar (BKU – Uttar Pradesh), C. Nanjuda Swami (Karnataka Rajya Rayyat Sangha), Dr. Sunilam (Madhya Pradesh Kisan Sangharah Samiti), Rajendra Patel (BKU – Madhya Pradesh), Suhkdev Singh Gill (Himachal Pradesh), Ch. Mukhram Singh (Rajasthan Kisan Union), Parasnath Singh (BKU – Chattisgarh), and Vijay Javdhiya (Shetkari Sangathana – Maharashtra).
Speaker after speaker condemned the present and the past governments at the Centre who have been responsible for the pathetic condition of farmers. The peasants refused to accept the logic that the conditions put forward by WTO are binding on them and blamed the government for bowing before the dictates of WTO, in the interest of agriculture monopolies. They said that these monopolies are bent upon making huge profits at the cost of poor farmers.
The rally then turned into a demonstration to the Parliament. Dressed in their working attire adorned with green pagdis, topis (caps), shawls and waving their huge lathis the peasants boldly proceeded to Parliament. Gauging the strength of the demonstration, the police thought it fit not to interfere with the demonstration. A delegation submitted their charter of demands to the Lok Sabha Speaker. The Charter of demands contained the following 11 demands.
- Keep WTO out of agriculture. Increase import duty on agriculture imports
- Fix the procurement prices before the sowing of seeds takes place. Provide procurement guarantee at terms favourable to the farmers.
- State must provide insurance coverage for the crop from sowing till harvesting and every farmer should be covered.
- Repeal all the cases against the agitating farmers across the country. Reform the Chakbandi Act .
- Calculate the procurement prices for the crops scientifically on the basis of cost of agriculture inputs. And eliminate the difference between prices of agricultural and industrial produce.
- Waive loans to farmers from public and private sector, immediately. Agricultural loans must be interest free.
- State must compensate for the damage to crops due to natural calamities.
- Promote rural agro-based small-scale industry in rural areas.
- Immediately stop procurement and sale of poor quality agriculture inputs. Sate must provide latest information and know-how on agriculture to the farmers and establish mechanism to provide good quality seeds, manure, and pesticides in consultation with the farmers. Ban use of genetically-modified seeds.
- Only the farmers have the right over the land, water and forests in this country. Repeal the new Seeds Act.
- President must nominate farmers representative to the Rajya Sabha.