Farmers’ protest in Madhya Pradesh has managed to grab headlines, if not for blocking vegetable and milk supply to any of the metropolitans (as in the case of Maharashtra), then for widespread violence, including arson, triggered by the death of eight farmers in the police shooting.
Now on to its eighth day, the farmers’ agitation has shaken up the political circles. The MP govt has announced compensation for families of farmers killed, along with a promise of a loan settlement scheme which it said will cover around six lakh farmers with accumulated dues of Rs 6,000 crore.
The Centre, jittery from the size of the protest, rushed 1,100 anti-riots police personnel to Mandsaur, site of shooting and majority protests.
The opposition parties have widely condemned the police action and even called for bandh on Wednesday which had a little impact.
Amid this political game, the reason for farmers’ protest seems lost. Here are the reasons why farmers in Madhya Pradesh are protesting
1) Minimum Support Price: Commonly known as MSP is the key issue here. The farmers have been demanding to implement the recommendations of Swaminathan Committee. MS Swaminathan, an agricultural scientist, had released a report back in 2006, recommending that MSP for crops should be at least 50 per cent more than their cost of production. BJP had included this recommendation in its 2014 general election manifesto. But in an interview to PTI last month, on the occasion of Modi government completing three years in office, BJP president Amit Shah had claimed that no government can meet the Swaminathan formula for calculating the cost of production.
2) Damage cover for drought: MP suffered two back-to-back droughts, hundreds of farmer suicides and mass exodus of workers between 2014 and 2015. Then normal rainfall was registered in the state in 2016, but the situation didn’t improve. According to information submitted to the state Assembly, 1695 farmers and farm labourers committed suicide between November and mid-November last year. Thus, farmers are demanding for a package to cover losses incurred by farmers during the droughts.
3) Damage cover for demonetisation: The key reason why normal monsoon of 2016 didn’t help farmers is because demonetisation forced them to sell their crops at flat rate, said an editorial in Shiv Sena journal Saamana. Another issue caused by demonetisation was cash crunch. Since farmers’ primary mode of transaction is cash, their demand is that half their dues at mandis should be paid in cash and the remaining via electronic transfer to their bank accounts.
4) Punishment for the shootings: The agitation took a violent turn after the police shootings. While the government has booked over 450 farmers for various activities, the farmers’ union has demanded action against those who opened fire on farmers. However, the district collector Swantra Singh told ANI that there was no order to open fire. “I have assured them (farmers) a strict action,” he added.
The government is contemplating a formula wherein it may waive interest on crop loans. Also, an Agricultural Costs and Marketing Commission to ensure better prices for farm produce would be set up, minister Archana Chitnis said after attending a meeting chaired by chief minister Chouhan.
Curfew remained in force at Pipaliya Mandi area—where five farmers were killed and six others were injured on Tuesday -- and in Mandsaur town. Prohibitary orders under section 144 of CrPC are still on in place in rest of the district, Inspector General of Police V Madhukumar said.
Several policemen, including senior officials, were heckled or injured in stone-pelting. Protesters threw vegetables and fruits on road in Sanwer and Simrol areas of Indore and emptied milk containers. Shops, warehouse and vehicles were looted and set ablaze.
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