A rally to highlight the depth of the agrarian crisis and extend solidarity to India’s farmers!
NO MORE FARMER SUICIDES!
Less then a week after Republic Day, when the streets of Lutyen’s Delhi witnessed the parade of soldiers and sailors, January 31, 2008 witnessed a different kind of March. Hundreds of girls and boys from different schools of Delhi, marched in an impressive procession from Mandi House to the Agricultural Ministry.
These children came out on the streets on a biting cold day to express their concern for the farmers of different parts of the country who are in the grip of acute crisis. In particular, they were expressing empathy with children who have been orphaned as a result of disastrous agrarian policies of the government which had led to mass suicides. Ironically, it was a delegation of orphaned children from Punjab, the state regarded as the "success story" of the first Green Revolution, that led the way with the banner "NO MORE FARMER SUICIDES".
This unique protest rally was organized under the banner of the Lok Raj Sangathan. The children came from working class colonies in different parts of Delhi. They came from some prominent public schools of Delhi. There were children from Tilak Vihar, popularly known as Widows Colony, because many of the widows of the genocide of 1984 were settled there. Organisations like the Sach Productions, Jamaat e Islami Hind, Rajasthan Shikshak Manch, Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, and Ankur sent delegations of activists, old and young, to actively participate in the rally.
Nearly 4 years ago, the UPA government came to power using the emotive issue of farmers suicides to create the illusion that it will pursue a pro farmer policy. The results show that farmers suicides have if at all, increased all over the country, including in the states where the government has made out it has implemented relief measures, such as in Maharashtra. Not only that, states like Punjab and Haryana, which are oft bandied as proof of the successes of the Green Revolution, are in the grip of acute agrarian crisis. The delegation of orphaned children from Punjab is just a sharp reminder of this grim reality.
he children carried placards with slogans like "Every Farmer Counts, Every Child Dreams", "Apathy is no Policy", "An Indian farmer commits suicide every 32 minutes", "Farmer Suicides: It may be rural but its real!", "150,000 Farmer Suicides", "Women Farmers Count too!", "Farmer Suicides are Imposed Murders", "Sarmaidaron ke raj mein kisanon ke liye – andheri jindagi, andheri mauth, andhera bhavishya!", "Kisanon ki maang – roji roti ki suraksha", "Mazdoor kisan ek ho jayein, shoshan daman ko door bhagayein!", "We demand – guaranteed procurement at remunerative prices!", "We demand crop insurance!", "Water, electricity, fertilizers and seeds at affordable prices is our right!", "Oppose the domination of the big capitalist monopolies in agriculture!", "Down with the anti peasant policies of the UPA government!".
The march was a reminder that while farmer’s suicides, and farmer issues in general, are good for the politicians to score brownie points over each other, when the dust has settled, both the government and the opposition are more concerned about the stock market than rural distress. By their novel method of protest, the children from the slums of Delhi showed the ruling politicians that people are watching – demanding real action.
At the conclusion of the rally, the President of the Lok Raj Sangathan, Shri S. Raghavan read out the memorandum to be submitted to the Agricultural Minister Sharad Pawar on behalf of the farmers of India. The rally was addressed amongst others by Shri Bijju Nayak, Secretary of the Delhi Council of LRS, Mujtaba Farooq, leader of the Jamaat Islami E Hind, Santosh Kumar, leader of the Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha, Guruji Hanuman Prasad, President Rajasthan Shikshak Manch, BB Tiwary, leader of the UNI employees Union, and others.
A delegation consisting two of the orphaned children, along with Prakash Rao, Mujtaba Farooq, Harpreet Kaur, Director Sach Productions, and Manmeet Singh, went to submit a memorandum to the Honourable Agricultural Minister Shri Sharad Pawar.
On the next day, a delegation of the LRS consisting of Bijju Nayak, Manmeet Singh, Harpreet Kaur and the orphaned children, had a detailed discussion with the Honourable Minister of Agriculture over the issues raised in the memorandum. Shri Sharad Pawar accepted the validity of the issues raised by the LRS memorandum. The Minister assured the delegation that he would do all in his power to persuade the Punjab government to provide relief the families of the farmers who had committed suicide.
We are reproducing, for your reference, the Memorandum submitted by LRS to the Agricultural Minister Shri Sharad Pawar.