At Andhra's Kisan Mukti Yatra, stories of debt, drought and desperation abound

“I pawned my wife’s jewellery and got a loan of Rs 2 lakh. I don't know if I can get her jewellery back.”
 At Andhra's Kisan Mukti Yatra, stories of debt, drought and desperation abound
At Andhra's Kisan Mukti Yatra, stories of debt, drought and desperation abound
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“Both my sons are farmers too. I think they should have chosen something else,” says Appa Rao G, a farmer whose paddy crop will be badly affected if he doesn’t receive water for the last phase of irrigation.

 Three years of drought and debt has burdened the farmers of Andhra Pradesh, who came together for the welcome meeting of the Kisan Mukti Yatra at Vijayawada yesterday.

The yatra, which is in its second phase, is being organised by the All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), and consists of more than 150 farmer organisations who demanded minimum support prices and loan waivers. It started on Saturday in Hyderabad, Telangana, and passed through various districts in Telangana before it went to Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, yesterday.

"My crops korralu (foxtail millet) and kandulu (red lentils) are in their last phase of irrigation. Who knows whether they will survive," says Kandi Venkat Reddy, a farmer from Tallupadu of Markapuram area, who owns five acres of farmland. His land is awaiting completion of the Veligonda irrigation project in Prakasam district.

The debt-ridden life seems to be forcing farmers to think about alternative sources of income.

"Three years ago, I had borrowed Rs 1.5 lakh. There are no rains, and even if we managed to buy water from the tankers, there is no support price for whatever we produced. If this continues, we may have to head to towns in search of some employment,” says Venkat Reddy.

Appa Rao G (66), a farmer from Uyyuru of Krishna district, owns four acres of farmland which is dependent on a canal of the Krishna River die irrigation. "Though the paddy in my fields is seemingly good, I doubt we will get water for the last phase. It will be badly affected,” he said.

In another case, two farmers from Prakasam district are thinking of selling off their land to pay off their debt.

Gali Rangareddy (60) and Dandi Anki Reddy (58), farmers from Tarlupadu, say that they have to pay off their debt of Rs 2 lakh each by any means, and are haunted by an uncertain future. They own two acres of land each.

"Who knew that this would happen? We invested in red lentils thinking there will be support price. Now, the price per quintal has come down to Rs 4000-5000 from Rs 14000.”

Tenant farmers have been some of the worst affected, as banks do not recognise them as farmers.

"I don't have a tenant farmer identity card. The banks won't recognize me as a farmer just because I don't own the land. They didn't give me a loan. I pawned my wife’s jewellery and got a loan of Rs 2 lakh. The mirchi (chilli) crop has ruined my future. I don't know if I can get her jewellery back," laments Nemali Reddy, a tenant farmer.

Many such farmers arrived at the meeting, demanding that the state and central governments waive their loans off and provide support prices.

The Meeting 

The meeting at Siddhartha College, which was presided by former Andhra Pradesh Agriculture Minister Shobanadreeswara Rao, had many in attendance, including AIKSCC national coordinator SVM Singh. It also included Yogendra Yadav, Retd Supreme Court Judge Gopal Goud, Rajaram Singh from CPI(ML)(AIKMS), former Union Secretary of Power EAS Sarma (IAS), Kiran Vissa of the Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV)  Rajeev Setti,Maharashtra (MP),and several other leaders.

"It's unfair on the government’s part to violate the legislation which they themselves made when our country. Our country is known as an agriculture-dependent economy and has witnessed 3.4 lakh suicides in over a decade. What is the point of claiming ones’ regime as the people’s regime?" former SC Judge Gopal Goud asked.

Attacking political forces, he accused them of ‘diverting’ from the important issues and focusing only divisive politics, and stated that there was no need to teach patriotism to the people since it is in their blood and veins.

"The Union government gets Rs 36000 crores in tobacco exports from Andhra alone. Why can't they give a compensation of Rs 500 crore to the state which has witnessed 640 farmer suicides in the last three years," EAS Sarma asked.

He also felt that the Kovvada and Kavali nuclear projects are going to turn into a testing ground for Westinghouse, which will affect lakhs of farmers, including those who are dependent on aquaculture (fish farming) for a livelihood.

“Improper policies and the government continuous ignoring of more than 70% of the country's population is causing a lot of suicides," SVM Singh lamented. Criticising the government, he said that farmers are shot down when they fight, referring to an incident in Madhya Pradesh's drought-hit Mandsaur, where five farmers were shot down by the police.

Yogendra Yadav saying that the government only cared about the health of the banking sector when it came to waiving off farmer loans, and not when corporates were involved.

"Around Rs 12 lakh crore were waived off for Ambani, Adani, Vijay Mallya and to all those corporate tycoons, but at that time they were not bothered about the banking system getting destroyed," he said.

He had also hoped that the movement will see the success. "I can see the change in farmer movements. They are not isolated anymore. They are uniting. Farmers from the north, from the south, from the north-east, adivasis and dalits, farmers who own land as well as landless farmers are joining the movement, and this movement will definitely achieve its goals,” Yadav said

The AIKSCC is planning to host a series of protests from November 20 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, including ‘Farmers Parliament’ sessions to highlight the different problems of farmers across the country during Parliament’s winter session. 


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