In a remarkable victory for the farmers in Rajasthan who have been protesting for the last two weeks, the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government has agreed to their demands including waiving off debts of around 50,000 farmers. Following the development, the protesting farmers in Sikar called off the 13-day protest on Thursday morning.
The farmers’ stir had brought the state to a standstill with thousands of people taking to streets in support of the farmers’ demands.
Under the leadership of All India Kisan Sabha, a CPI(M)‘s farmers organisation, the protest was launched on 1 September and had called for an indefinite gherao of all District Collectorates in Rajasthan. After a massive demonstration on Monday, the state government held several talks with the protesting leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The peasant movement received unprecedented support from all sections of the society making it a truly people's movement. The insensitive BJP Government led by Vasundhara Raje Scindia was forced to bow down and accept many of the demands of the peasantry after 13 days of struggle and talks with the Kisan Sabha leadership. The talks went on in 4 phases from 1:00 PM on 12th September and ended on 14th September at 1:00 AM,” the All India Kisan Sabha said in a statement.
Over the past two weeks, thousands of people gheraoed the different District Headquarters. For 3 days there was also Rasta Roko across the State bringing about 20 Districts to a standstill. Only ambulances and essential services functioned. Starting from Sikar district, the protests had spread into other districts including Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Churu, Bikaner, Nagaur and Jhunjhunu.
Notably, unlike other farmers protests, the Sikar movement has won the support of people from all sections of society. The agitation has turned into a people’s movement for farmers with thousands coming out in solidarity.
“All sections of society have rallied around the farmers under the Kisan Sabha banner. Their solidarity helped to sustain the movement,” joint secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, Vijoo Krishnan, told SouthLive.
The protesting farmers wanted the government to ensure better crop price, crop loan waiver, purchase of crops at minimum support price (MSP), increasing farmers’ pension from ₹500 to ₹5,000, tackling the menace of stray cattle, removing the ban on the sale of cattle imposed by the state government and implementation of the Swaminathan commission recommendations.
“The BJP Government was forced to agree to loan waiver of up to RS.50,000/- which is expected to benefit 8 lakh farmers, assurance that State government will write to the Centre seeking implementation of Swaminathan Commission Recommendations on MSP in a time-bound manner by working out modalities, purchase of groundnut, green gram (moong) and urad at MSP at all District Headquarters within 7 days, withdraw hike in electricity rates for drip irrigation, payment of SC/ST/OBC fellowship with arrears immediately, relaxation in restrictions in sale of cattle, protection of crops from stray cattle and wild animals, increase of pension to Rs. 2000/month agreed in principle,” the Kisan Sabha said.
Scores of farmers had gathered at around 250 different locations in the region, blocking highways. Thousands had occupied the Jaipur-Sikar route. Several roads connecting Jaipur to Jhunjhunu, Churu, and Bikaner were also blocked. Section 144 was imposed within a two-kilometre radius around the Sikar District Collectorate, and mobile internet services were disabled in the entire district. The biggest of such demonstration was on Monday, where close to one lakh people, including a number of young people anganwadi workers, traders and various transportation unions, have marched in solidarity with the farmers.
Almost 70 percent people in Rajasthan are engaged in agriculture and farmers constitute a crucial vote bank. Over the past one year, the prices of agricultural commodities have collapsed and farmers get well below their cost of production. The failure to get remunerative prices for produces merely perpetuates the vicious cycle of debt.
This year, up to 80 percent of the crops in parts of Rajasthan has also been destroyed by unseasonal rain.