Farmers accuse PM Modi of treating them like “illiterate third class citizens”.

 Agitation wont stop will stand in the sun till we die say TN farmers in Delhi on day 31
news Farmers’ issue Friday, April 14, 2017 - 15:40

It has been a month since Iyyakannu, the Tamil Nadu chief of the Desiya Thenidhiya Nathigal Inaippu Vivasayigal Sangam, led over 100 farmers to the national capital. This 68-year-old from Trichy has made heads turn from day one of the protests, with ingenious methods to portray the desperation of drought hit farmers in Tamil Nadu. But despite their many attempts to get the Centre’s attention, not a single one of their demands has been met.

Since their arrival in the capital on March 13, political leaders have flocked to Jantar Mantar to register their support. Leaders from the AIADMK, DMK, MDMK and even the Congress' Rahul Gandhi has ensured that an opportunity to be seen with these agitators is not missed. Despite this seemingly increasing political support, however, an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to elude these farmers.

On Monday, when a promised meeting with the Prime Minister did not materialise, a group of farmers, ripped off their loin cloth and protested naked in Delhi's prestigious South Block. Iyyakannu, who was also present at the venue, told The News Minute that even the women who were participating in the protests would resort to nudity if their demands were not fulfilled.

"Our demands have remained the same since day one," says Iyyakannu, in an exclusive interview to The News Minute. "We want river interlinking, pension of Rs 5000 for farmers above the age of 60 and waiver of loans by banks and finance companies. We have brought these demands to the doorstep of the Centre because the state does not have the power to give all these directives," he says.

The Madras High Court on April 4 directed Tamil Nadu government to waive loans of all farmers in cooperative banks, is that not a victory in itself? "Just cooperative banks will not do, the Centre must ensure that nationalised banks write off our loans as well. There is no point of drought compensation if farmers have a loan looming over their head," says Iyyakannu.

Farmers at the capital who initially demanded that the Centre release over Rs 39,000 crore as drought relief to Tamil Nadu, have now toned it down to Rs 21,708 crore. This, according to the protesters, is based on the state Government's latest report on relief measures. "That amount is just for our state. But now farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir and even Uttarakhand have joined our protests. To provide drought relief for all these states, the Centre would have to cough up close to Rs 72,000 crore," he says.

So, is that why the Prime Minister hasn't met the agitating farmers for one whole month?

Iyyakannu's voice chokes and he says, "To him, farmers are illiterate third class citizens who will blindly vote even if we are treated like dirt. But the farmers who have gathered here from across the country will prove him wrong. That is not all. It is because we don't have any BJP connections. He will only meet people who are politically affiliated. "

Over 200 farmers, according to Iyyakannu, were now part of the protests in Jantar Mantar. "We also have long term solutions in mind. Agricultural goods must be priced in a manner that is affordable for the farmer. We are also going to ask for the formation of a Cauvery Management Board to end our water woes and to stop farmer suicides," he says. While Iyyakannu takes on the Centre in New Delhi, the Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the state government over their insensitivity towards farmer suicides.

"The state stands on the position of a loco parentis to the citizens and when there are so many deaths of farmers in the state of Tamil Nadu, it becomes obligatory on the part of the state to express concern and sensitiveness to do the needful and not allow the impecunious and poverty stricken farmers to resign to their fate or leave the downtrodden and the poor to yield to the idea of fatalism," said the SC bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra, AM Khanwilkar and MM Shantagoudar.

This warning, however, came on a day when yet another farmer took his own life in Negamam, after being unable to repay a loan of Rs 5 lakh.

"Farmers will no longer suffer silently," says Iyyakannu. "For us these protests are a last resort. Several of us have fallen ill over these 31 days. I myself have lost 10 kg and I can hardly stand up. But the agitation will not stop, we will stand here in this blistering sun, till we die if that is what it takes for the Prime Minister to fulfil our demands," he challenges. 


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