Farmers marched in Delhi with demands of debt relief and better prices for produce.
New Delhi: With hopes of being heard in the country's capital and to send a message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government just months before it seeks re-election, thousands of farmers from across India began a two-day protest in Delhi on Thursday with demands including loan waivers and better prices for their produce. Backed by the Left and a number of farmer groups, they marched on Delhi's roads for more than 25 kilometres from five different locations towards Ramlila Maidan. On Friday, they plan to walk to the parliament. The police have made special arrangements for the protest with 3,500 personnel called in. Here are the top 10 points in this big story:
- The farmers have come from different corners of the country, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh on everything from trains to tractors.
- The sprawling Ramlila ground turned into a sea of red as farmers wearing caps and carrying flags gathered, raising slogans like "Ayodhya nahi, karzi maaf chahiye (We don't need Ayodhya but debt waiver".
- "I took a loan of Rs 3 lakh, three years ago and it is very difficult to pay it back. I want my loan to be waived off," 60-year-old Bhramar Vishi from Odisha, who is the sole breadwinner in his family of five, told NDTV.
- "The kind of vegetables and beans we grow there… there is not enough market for it. What we do manage to sell is sold at Rs 1 or Rs 2 per kg. How will that be enough?" 65-year-old Urmila Naiya, who is among 78 farmers from Sunderbans in West Bengal who have travelled for 30 hours on a train, said.
- About 1,200 farmers from Tamil Nadu reached the national capital in the early hours of Thursday carrying skulls of two of their colleagues who had committed suicide, a leader of the National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturalists Association said. The group threatened to march naked if they are not allowed to go to parliament on Friday.
- The last time when the farmers protested in Delhi on October 2, they were met with barricades, water cannons and even tear gas shells. This time, the leaders of the movement are hoping for cooperation from authorities.
- Five gurdwaras in Delhi have offered to let many of the farmers stay for the night, Atul Anjaan, one of the leaders of the movement said. However, most of the farmers will spend the night at Ramlila Maidan in tents, he said.
- The Delhi Jal Board will provide them with water tanks and Aam Aadmi Party legislators will give food packets. Volunteers of the AAP have put up scores of tents at the Anand Vihar station for farmers who arrived there and are also providing snacks and water to them, he added.
- Volunteers, including doctors, lawyers, professors and artists, came out in large numbers to help. More than 600 volunteers of a solidarity group Nation For Farmers marched with the farmers as did students from various universities.
- Weak farm prices and growing agrarian distress are threatening to hurt the ruling BJP as it faces a critical test in the ongoing state polls, that are part of its traditional stronghold, ahead of general elections next year.
(With inputs from PTI)