AID condemns police firing and death of farmers in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh Expresses solidarity with farmers and their demands in Madhya Pradesh and other states
Association for India’s Development (AID) condemns the violent handling of the farmers’ protest in Mandsaur by the government of Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) on the afternoon of June 6th. The police firing has so far claimed the lives of 6 farmers and has left many others injured, in the midst of a 10-day farmers’ agitation which began on June 1st. After this unacceptably tragic incident, farmers across M.P. have intensified actions protesting the police action and demanding better crop prices and government support systems. AID expresses solidarity with the farmers in their demands, and urges the protesters to refrain from violence and damage to public property.
We express serious concern about the two underlying problems that led to these alarming developments. Firstly, the farmers’ crisis across the country is largely due to the failure of governments to do their duty – either by making policies unfriendly to farmers, or by not ensuring timely implementation of existing support systems. The problem with crop prices – especially tur dal, vegetables, onions, soybean, etc. – has been festering since November, with farmers incurring severe losses even when they raise a good crop.
For example, the market price for onions has been ₹1 per kilo against farmers’ input cost of ₹5 per kilo. Vegetable farmers face a similar situation and were also badly hit by demonetization. The price of tur dal dropped a few months ago to Rs.4000 per quintal from a price of Rs.9000 in the previous season. When the government fails to take timely action for many months, the distress can turn into a desperate situation for farmers. The 1000-crore package announced by the M.P. government last week for price stabilization should have come long before the agitation started.
Secondly, the governments are severely shrinking the spaces for democratic protest, refusing permissions for rallies or arresting farmers to prevent them from reaching the cities or the state capital. The incidents of the past few days could be seen as a direct result of this. The use of brutal means to suppress the voices and demands of the farmers forebodes ill for the civil society and democracy at large.
Although the agitation in Madhya Pradesh has captured the national headlines, farmers in Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and many other states have been carrying out significant protests. They are being similarly pushed against the wall. The onus also lies with the Central government for not declaring higher Minimum Support Prices (MSP) as promised, not ensuring compensation for drought-affected farmers and the adverse impact due to demonetization.
AID calls upon the M.P. government as well as other state governments to meet the farmers’ demands on prices, market intervention and loans. We also urge the governments to engage with the protestors and their demands constructively without brutal use of force.
AID calls upon the government to accept the following demands of the farmers:
The government must provide a minimum support price of 50% higher than the average cost of production, as recommended by the National Commission on Farmers, chaired by Professor M.S. Swaminathan.
The government should not only announce MSPs but implement the MSPs in all crops where they are announced – by procurement or effective market intervention.
The government should take immediate steps to relieve the farmers of their heavy debt burden – particularly those who have been kept out of institutional finance.
The government should ultimately put in place a system that assures a minimum living income to all farming households that are directly engaged in farming.
AID’s work with farmers and agriculture
AID has been working with farmers and farmers organizations across the country since 1995. Farmers have been engulfed in an agrarian crisis for the last few decades and it continues to deepen. Almost once every half an hour, a farmer commits suicide in India.
AID has been using a multi-pronged strategy to address the agrarian crisis by (1) helping families distressed due to farmer suicides, drought or other natural calamities; (2) promoting sustainable farming models; (3) helping small and marginal farmers get better income by organizing into cooperatives or accessing institutional finance; and (4) ensuring better implementation of government support systems for farmers.