Tamil Nadu Farmers protest with skulls of dead farmers in New Delhi

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Tamil Nadu Farmers protest with skulls of dead farmers in New Delhi

Delay in compensation for crop failure , demand of pension scheme & writing off loans bring Tamil Nadu farmers to Delhi 

Nirmesh Singh
New Delhi | 15 March 2017

Tamil Nadu farmers are on hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, protesting against increasing farmer suicides caused by one of the worst droughts the state has faced in 140 years. Both men and women, wearing just loincloth, dhotis and petticoats, respectively tried protesting near Prime Minister’s residence at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg in New Delhi yesterday but were shifted to Jantar Mantar.  The farmers are carrying clay bowls (for begging) and skull of dead farmers to show their dissent towards apathy they have been reduced to.

Farmers sitting on hunger strike at Jantar Mantar. (Photo: ANN/Nirmesh Singh)

Farmers sitting on hunger strike at Jantar Mantar. (Photo: ANN/Nirmesh Singh)

Farmers said, “We are carrying these bowls to show our situation that we have become like beggars”. Pointing towards skulls hanging around his neck, another farmer said, “These are the skulls of farmers who have committed suicide in Tamil Nadu”.

Farmers also said, “They have three demands – immediate compensation for crop loss, a pension scheme where farmers over 60 years of age get Rs 5,000 each and writing off farmers’ bank loans”.

However, the handbill that was distributed to media persons had other demands also – formation of Cauvery Management Committee, profitable price for agri products and networking of all rivers by smart waterways project.

Led by P Ayyakannu, State President of South Indian Rivers Linking Farmers Association, these farmers have come from the districts of Trichy, Karur and Thanjavur.  He said, “Over 400 farmers have committed suicides because of drought and crop failure. Something must to be done by government to prevent suicides. Modi government has failed to provide us relief”.

He was asked to meet the Union Finance Minister today. But he said that he could meet only a Joint Secretary in Finance Minister as the minister was in Parliament.  He said, “The joint secretary told him that he could not do anything and he was not responsible for this. So, go back to Chennai, take an appointment with Minister and meet him”.

But he said, “They will continue the hunger strike here only until they meet Finance Minister”.

Earlier in January this year, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had issued notices to the central and state governments reply on a public interest litigation that highlighted farmer suicides in Tamil Nadu. The PIL sought  to declare Tamil Nadu as drought affected state and provide Rs 20, 000 crore as drought relief. It had also sought Rs 50,000 per acre as drought relief to all farmers in the state besides Rs 30 lakh to the legal heirs of the farmers committed suicide due to crop failure. At the same time, taking sou moto cognizance over the deaths of 106 farmers in month in Tamil Nadu, the National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government regarding continuing farmer deaths in the state.

In February, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami declared the release of Rs 2,247 crore relief package for drought-hit farmers.

Last week in a reply to question in Rajya Sabha, Union Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Minister Radha Ram Mohan Singh told, “The State Government submitted a memorandum seeking assistance of Rs. 39565.00 crores from NDRF for drought relief. An Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) constituted by the Central Government for assessment of the drought situation and requirement of financial assistance had visited the State in January, 2017 and submitted its Report. The Report submitted by the IMCT is under consideration of the Central Government”.

The farmers sitting on hunger strike were worried that the centre’s delay in providing compensation will make the situation worse at their home as there is no money.