With falling profits, Rajinder is uncertain about his son Ajay’s future.
(Photo: Anthony Rozario/The Quint)
In Pics: When Delhi Slammed the Door on UP’s Protesting Farmers
UP farmers’ Kisan Kranti Padyatra was brought to a grinding halt at the borders of the national capital.
Carrying his five-year-old son, Rajinder has covered over 600 kilometres in his exhausting journey from Uttar Pradesh’s Shravasti to the national capital. He is among thousands of distressed farmers who were stopped at the Delhi-UP border in Ghazipur, as their Kisan Kranti Padyatra was prevented from reaching Raj Ghat on Tuesday, 2 October.
“Excessive rainfall had destroyed half of my paddy crop and the other half that survived is drying up now,” he laments.
However, it isn’t just crop failure that plagues many like Rajinder, but also the rising costs of fuel and fertilisers.
While Rajinder has found it difficult to sustain his family of four, 71-year-old Shansehar Pal has lost his sleep to a pending farm loan. Pal, a sugarcane farmer from Ghaziabad, had breathed a sigh of relief when the Uttar Pradesh government declared that it would waive farm loans.
“I had taken a loan to cultivate sugarcane, but the factory I sold my produce to, hasn’t paid me for the crop,” he says, sitting on a carriage attached to a tractor. Interrupting Pal, another farmer on the carriage adds that “CM Yogi had promised a farm loan waiver, but it’s clear that he’s a liar.”
Sugarcane, the plant that sweetens our morning chai, has turned into a bitter poison for farmers in Uttar Pradesh, especially those from Bijnor district.
But for 27-year-old Abhishek, cultivating the water-intensive crop wasn’t the original plan. The college graduate says he had great faith in Prime Minister Modi’s pre-poll promise of employment generation, but that didn’t benefit him in any way.
With no job in sight, Abhishek took to sugarcane farming. Today, his family has been hit financially as the sugarcane mill they sold their produce to has not paid them their dues.
In the endless sea of men dressed in white, there were also some women who had come from the far-flung districts of Uttar Pradesh. One of them, Sumari Devi, traveled over 700 kilometres to Delhi, hoping that the government would listen to her demands.
“My eyesight has been weakening and I can’t do any work. Farming too isn’t helping much. The government must pay us pension,” Sumari adds, looking through her hazy glasses.
The agrarian distress in India is not only limited to land-owning farmers, but also spills over to those they employ. So, when a farmer’s income falls, it crushes those like Maya Devi under its weight.
Maya claims she doesn’t have a BPL card and has no access to any government scheme. She says she doesn’t own any land and her condition has forced her to march to Delhi.
“If we weren’t suffering, why would we come all the way from Sitapur,” she asks, with her infant in her lap.
The farmers came came to make their demands heard, but when they were stopped at the Delhi-UP border, many attempted to scale police barricades. They were met with a bevy of security personnel who were asked to keep the protesters within UP’s limits.
When some of the protesters rammed a tractor through the barricades, the police responded with water cannons and tear gas.
It was during this attempt that Aditya Singh injured himself. With his white shirt stained with blood from the scuffle, Singh says he’s not afraid to march forward.
The farmers were already agitated when they marched to Delhi and the use of police force to stall their movement into the capital has only added fuel to the fire. Remembered only in poll-time promises, farmers say they won’t forget Tuesday’s events while voting in the upcoming general elections.
To the common city dweller the protest may seem yet another agitation by farmers looking for freebies at the taxpayers expense. A cab driver questioned why the farmers were demanding a waiver, when all their loans had been waived. “Why do the farmers demand so much?” the driver asked.
But those who see this protest as comprising only men and women demanding more and more, fail to understand what leads the farmers to protest.
Thirteen-year-old Anil Prajapati is not a farmer, his father is. The seventh grade student has accompanied his mother from Bahraich, and feels both his parents should get pension.
“I want a job too,” he says, after much coaxing. When asked how he’ll get a job at this age, Anil explains, “It’s only when I grow up.”
He says he won’t go back home till the government meets their demands, adding that if he does, how will he fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer?
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