An unusual sort of a ‘parliament’ – Kisan Mukti Sansad – was formed just a few feet away from the Parliament in New Delhi on Monday, 20 November.
Thousands of farmers collected at Sansad Marg, under the banner of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), demanding the waiver of loans and a fixed minimum support price.
Replicating the Parliament of India, this ‘parliament’ also had 543 MPs who presented the farmers’ demands in the form of a Bill. However, what’s to be noted is that all these ‘MPs’ were women related to the farming sector.
Several heartbreaking stories were unearthed when The Quint spoke to these ‘MPs’ from different parts of the country.
Name: Kanta Pandurang Vise
Age: 35 years
Village: Bhise Wagholi, Latur, Maharashtra
Two years ago, Vise’s 18-year-old daughter killed herself by drinking pesticide. She took the step because her father, the owner of a small one-acre farm, wasn’t in a position to pay dowry for her marriage.
According to Vise, they earn around Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 per year from the farm. Apart from that, her husband also works as a construction worker, which gets them an additional Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 per year.
Vise has two more daughters and a son. The eldest daughter has reached marriageable age. She says each day she lives in the fear of losing another daughter due to the same reason.
Maharashtra has the worst record when it comes to farmer suicides. In 2015, around 3,030 farmers killed themselves in Maharashtra.
Age: 18 years
Village: Vachya tanda, Warangal, Telangana
Venalla’s father killed himself on 12 October 2016. He found it difficult to pay back the loans he had taken from the bank as well as moneylenders. After the death of her husband, Venalla’s mother had undergone mental trauma.
Venalla, a second-year grad student, also has two brothers aged 10 and 8 years each. The burden of her mother’s treatment and her brothers’ academics has taken a toll on the 18-year-old.
In 2015, as many as 1,358 farmers took their lives in Telangana, putting it only second to Maharashtra.
Name: Kulsam Ben Usman Bai
Age: 30 years
District: Surendrangar, Gujarat
Heavy rainfall this year has completely ruined Kulsam Ben’s cotton crop sown on 20 bigha land. To support the family, her husband has now taken to riding a rickshaw. Kulsam laments that despite tremendous effort, her crop either gets ruined or sells for a meagre price at the market. She’s unable to send her seven-year-old son to a good school.
Name: Prabhavati Swami Hiramath
Age: 55 years
Village: Bidar, Karnataka
After the death of her husband 30 years ago, Hiramath used to live with her brother, a farmer who killed himself five years ago as he was unable to pay back loans.
Now, Hiramath cultivates pulses and sugarcane on her 10-acre land. Her four young children, as well as her brother’s kin, are all involved in farming. Hiramath says she’s left with almost nothing after spending on insecticide and labour.
Name: Kausalya Devi
Age: 55 years
Village: Nauva, Rohtas, Bihar
Kausalya Devi, who has come to Delhi from south Bihar’s Rohtas district, cultivates paddy, wheat, gram, and mustard on her four bigha land along with her husband. The couple, who have a son and five daughters, are barely able to feed themselves, especially because there is no other way of earning a living in the village apart from farming.
Devi has come to Delhi with the hope of narrating her problems to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
12,602 farming-related suicides in 2015
According to the data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau, 2015 saw 12,602 farming-related suicides, out of which 8,007 were farmers and 4,595 were farm labourers.
The founder of Swaraj India, Yogendra Yadav, told The Quint:
For the first time, 184 organisations from across the country have come together, and they aren’t just protesting but are providing alternatives.
All the particpants of the ‘Kisan Mukti Sansad’ are demanding loan waivers and are asking the government to set the minimum support price at 1.5 times the cost of farming, as per the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee.
(This article was originally published in Hindi Quint)