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On the 1st of September 2017, farmers of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisab Sabha called for an indefinite mahapadav or gherao of the various District Collectorates in Rajasthan. Like the farmer protests in Maharashtra, these too were sustained bouts of anger over neglect by the government. The farmers had very basic demands related to the very survival of agriculture itself. Proper implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations,the greater allocation for MGNREGA, higher wages and more days of work, social security, MSP was another key area, removal of the absurd law on restrictions on cattle trade sinking the prices of cattle and protection for cattle traders, pensions of Rs.5000 for farmers and agricultural labourers over the age of 60. Here are their demands:

Demands of the Kisan Sabha in the Sikar agitation
Demands of the Kisan Sabha in the Sikar agitation

It is shameful that as farmer desperation and suicides increase and even suicides rise among the children of farmers, the government and their elite rent-a-pens remain indifferent and even dismissive to the plight of farmers. However the citizens of Rajasthan are not. The demands of the farmers found wide resonance among various groups of people who supported the protests in solidarity. Hundreds of members of the Kiln labour Union drove to Krishi Mandi, Sikar on red tractors in solidarity with the mahapadav. National leader of Jan Kranti Manch, Pooja Chhabra also reached the Mandi to convey solidarity. Veer Teja Sena of Sikar has pledged to support the struggle at every step. The Bakra Mandi Vyaparis have shown their support to the movement along with a contribution Rs. 11,000. Shaheed Bhagat Singh Law College, Sikar, bestowed Rs. 10,000 to the mahapadav. Sangliya Dhuni, a ‘saint’who claims to be a farmer at heart, gave monetary support and 2 quintals of wheat.

Dilip Mishra of the Auto Rickshaw Union expressed the willingness of auto drivers to go on strike in solidarity if called upon, as did milk suppliers. Milk Transportation Union of the state contributed Rs. 21,000; while the Amul Corporation Union gave Rs. 11,000 to the agitation. The Bus City Union took out a huge rally in support of the mahapadav. Dancing with the DJ, going through the city, the rally was welcomed by the citizens with flowers. The MR union put up a free medical camp to oversee the health of farmers in the rally and the ambulance union took out a rally in support of the mahapadav. [Source: Newsclick]

Protests raged for days with blockades at 300 points, as the government did what governments do. The internet was blocked in Rajasthan to prevent news from getting too much attention. However, this did nothing to dampen the flood of people out on the streets for their very sustainability. Protests continued to grow as the farmers declared the government of Rajasthan dead and carried out a mock funeral.

Finally, and unsurprisingly, like the protests in Maharashtra, the government was forced to bow to their demands. Amra Ram, Kisan Sabha leader and ex-MLA from CPI(M) speaks here about their victory.

And their press release thanking everyone for support in their victory.

AIKS Congratulates Rajasthan Kisans for Historic Victory!

Celebrating victory in Sikar agitation
Celebrating victory in Sikar agitation

The peasantry in Rajasthan under the Kisan Sabha banner have won a significant victory after their resolute struggle lasting 13 days. Since 1st September, 2017 lakhs gheraoed the different District Headquarters on the call of Rajasthan Kisan Sabha for a Mahapadav. For 3 days there was also Rasta Roko across the State bringing about 20 Districts to a standstill. Only ambulances and essential services functioned. 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.

Celebrations as Rajasthan government is forced to accept farmer demands in Sikar agitation
Celebrations as Rajasthan government is forced to accept farmer demands in Sikar agitation

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, insurance claim for failure of canal irrigation and stopping harassment of traders and farmers by the police. After agreement on these issues and on a mechanism to implement decisions AIKS President Com.Amra Ram announced withdrawal of the Mahapadav and reopening of roads that were closed for the last 3 days. Kisans across the State celebrated the victory with slogans, songs and dances.

AIKS thanks all who stood in solidarity with the movement. This inspiring victory shall inspire similar struggles across the country.

Message from Com. Drm. Ashok Dhawale, Vice President AIKS

Heartiest congratulations to all leaders and activists of the Rajasthan Kisan Sabha and to the fighting peasantry of Rajasthan for their massive 13-day struggle and the impressive victory that they won in prolonged talks with the state government.

राजस्थान किसान सभा के सभी जुझारू साथियों को महाराष्ट्र किसान सभा के सभी साथियों की ओर से लाल सलाम.

- Com. Drm Ashok Dhawale
Vice-President AIKS

Special mention must be made of the excellent coverage of the protests by NewsClick. Where most media carried token coverage at best, they have photos, videos and interviews from the ground as the protests progressed.

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Our Agriculture Sector and Farmer find themselves in dire straits partly due to the Policies of the respective Governments, flawed Costing/Pricing Polity and shrinking of Land Holdings.

The clear indicator that something is seriously wrong can be gauged by the fact that, on average, 2,035 farmers have been losing ‘Main Cultivator’ status every single day for the last 20 years i.e. 2035 less Farmers every day. The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways. The NSSO 70th Round data revealed that the average monthly income of an agricultural household is just Rs. 6426/- at the national level. Within this average monthly income, income from cultivation is reported to be only 47.9% (the remaining comes from livestock: 11.9%; from wage/salary: 32.2% and from non-farm business: 8%). If this amount is divided into two adults per family, the daily wage comes to Rs 107 which is way below the minimum wage fixed in any state of India. This is in stark contrast to the 7 Pay Commission recommendations in which minimum pay of a Govt Employee i.e. a Helper will increase to Rs. 18,000 from existing of Rs. 7,000. In the past 45 years, the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat was hiked by 19 times, whereas the basic salary plus DA of a government employee was raised by an average of 120 to 150 times.

The Profit Margins of the farmers have been steadily declining on account of rising Input Costs. In 2015 Punjab State Agricultural Department factored the increase in Input Costs and recommended that the MSP of Wheat should be Rs 1950 per quintal. The Chief Minister of Punjab requested the CACP and the Center but to no avail, the MSP of Wheat for the Rabi season of 2015 was fixed at Rs 1525/-. How can a Farmer bear a loss of Rs 425 per quintal? One of the reasons of the present Agrarian Crisis is that all the Governments have been underpaying the Farmer to control the Inflation and will continue to do so.

There was a ray of hope in the farmers mind that the present Government will implement Swaminathan Report, which was a poll promise by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. But alas, all hopes were dashed in Feb 2015, when the Government told the Supreme Court that it would not be able to enhance the minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural produce to be 50% more than the input cost. Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh submitted the Centre's affidavit which stated that," prescribing an increase of at least 50% on cost may distort the market”. The argument that 60 cr people will be underpaid by the Government to ensure that the market is not distorted, defies logic. My take on this is, that will the director of CACP take 15 days salary for 30 days work, I bet he will not. Then, why is the Farmer exploited in such a blatant way?

Govt imported 5 Lakh tons of duty free maize, which led to a crash in February spot price of Rs 400 and for June deliveries in the future market to Rs 1172, way below the MSP. Now, what is the fault of the farmer who had maize planted in his fields and was forced to sell below MSP. The government must compensate the farmer in such circumstances as this starts a never ending cycle of indebtness, which ends very unpleasantly. It is understood that imports were required as there were no stocks in the country, but the government must factor in the farmers concern too.

I admire the various initiatives which the Government has come up with like Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, National Agriculture Market, Pradhan Mantri Krisi Sinchai Yojana, Soil Card etc, Agri Apps, but am at a loss to understand/comprehend that how will these schemes help the farmer if the price at which he sells is below the input costs incurred by him?

Recently, the Govt signed a long term memorandum with Mozambique for import of Pulses, under which the imports will rise to 200,000 Tons in 2021 .Going by the MoU, India will build a cooperative farming model in Mozambique by identifying and choosing a network of farmers who will be provided with seeds and other improvements. The pulses produced by this network of farmers will be procured at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of the same produce in India.

It is perplexing that only 1% of the Pulses are procured by Govt agencies in India at MSP and no effort was made to improve the domestic procurement mechanism, but the Govt had no qualms in assuring the African Farmer 100% procurement of pulses at MSP. It is worth noting that the Govt increased the minimum support price (MSP) of pulses by up to Rs 425 per quintal for this year to boost output and check price rise. Please keep in mind that the transportation cost would add to the landed cost of pulses. Had there been a robust procurement mechanism by the FCI or state governments, like wheat/paddy coupled with realistic MSP, the farmer would have gone for pulses too. A fact supporting this argument is that Pulses sowing as on 15 July increased by 40% as compared to last year. It is felt by majority of Agri Experts that this outsourcing of agriculture is detrimental to the interest of the Indian farmer.
Now, the Govt has decided to form a committee under Chief Economic Advosor to frame a policy on pulses which will look into various options, including MSP (Minimum Support Price), Bonus and subsidizing Farmer who opt for Pulses.

It is sad that Govt took cognizance of the flawed policy aspects only when there was a national uproar. The Govt needs to formulate a real time Agri-Policy encompassing all Food Produce and go for long term solutions rather than knee jerk reactions.