‘Listen to our life stories from around the country’
Demanded thousands of farmers, who descended on Delhi from all over the country. “Thousands of suicides have not melted the heart of the Parliament to find out why farmers are being driven to such extreme measures, so we have to come here to make our voices heard,” said T. Ojha, social activist, heading Mazdoor Morcha in Patna, Bihar. “About 10, 000 have come from Bihar alone.
Their brief but all-encompassing press release clearly articulates their demands. The farmers want dynamic policy frameworks put in place that supports a holistic economic development of all related agriculture sectors, that include broadening types of crops being harvested, fishery, poultry, cattle rearing, forestry, etc.
They are uncomfortable with the trend towards corporatizing that puts profit as the main objective and not development. “We have mostly small farms in Kerala,” say Sajjad Hyder and Sajeeb Habeeb from Trivandrum, “Our policies have to address our reality.”
(Sajjad Hyder and Sajeeb Habeeb, Kerala)
The farmers also want the government to check the falling standards of education and health services that traps their children into the same cycle. They want a long discussion and debate in Parliament and that should be the start to a meaningful engagement with the subject as these are complex issues.
Their press release talks about how water shortages and drought-like situations being faced in many parts of the country go beyond just scarcity of rain. A fair access to water is very deeply related to inequality of land ownership, caste, gender - all of which need to be addressed.
And there is the refrain to implement the Swaminathan recommendations submitted between 2004-2006, which successive governments have been dragging their feet on. Under the chairmanship of Prof. MS Swaminathan, a geneticist, who was involved with extensive research in agriculture, the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) was set-up to focus on causes of farmer distress and the rise in farmer suicides. It recommended a holistic national policy for farmers. The findings and recommendations of the Report address access to resources, land reforms and social security entitlements, which most farmer groups around the country endorse, or at least agree as a valuable starting point for policy development.