Farmers issues
“Strengthen their voice,” tweeted Kamal, with a placard that read #Indebted2farmers, while Prakash Raj took a dig at political leaders.
Kamal Haasan/Twitter

As the Kisan Mukti Sansad or the farmers’ parliament gets underway in New Delhi on Monday, actor Prakash Raj lent support to their issues. Without naming anyone, the actor took a dig at political leaders asking if they were too busy campaigning to solve issues. 

On Thursday, actor Kamal Haasan tweeted “Truly indebted to the farmers of India. Strengthen their voice” holding a white placard that read, “#Indebted2farmers’. Kamal, however, wasn’t the only one. There were many other celebrities with the same placard.

The campaign

Indebted2farmers is an online campaign launched by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). A coalition of 184 farmer organisations, AIKSCC was formed in June this year to help secure the rights of farmers.

Speaking to TNM, Kavitha Kuruganti, a member of the working group of the AIKSCC says there is a moral imperative for people to care about farmers, given that the food we ultimately eat is sourced from them.

“According to census data, about 3500 farmers per day are getting displaced from agriculture. So, where will they go? It’s not as if the non-farm economy is thriving or there are a lot of options. They’ll be headed to urban areas, which is not prepared to take this kind of influx. The most sensible thing to do is for people in urban areas to understand farmers’ issues. It will be a win-win for everyone – for farmers and people who live in urban areas.”

The aim of AIKSCC is to raise awareness through its social media campaigns about the issues of the farmers.  

“It is about pointing out that farm prices have been kept systemically suppressed, that input prices have been allowed to rise, that natural calamities have been devastating farmers who are left without any effective support, that investments in agriculture have been going down – this then means that farmers have been robbed of their dues all this while,” the AIKSCC said in a statement.

Indebted2farmers, however, is part of the second leg of the social media campaign launched by the group.  The first campaign was the KisanKiLoot, which highlighted how farmers are being denied the price they deserved for their produce.

AIKSCC says that crops are selling below their Minimum Support Price, and even the price fixed was less than the actual cost of production. It estimated the loss of farmers to be Rs 2.03 lakh crore. To tackle this and show the losses incurred by the farmers, the campaign showed pictures of farmers holding up charts that showed the prices promised by the government, the price they received, the cost of production and the amount of money they lost.  

https://twitter.com/medhanarmada/status/930380515282100224

Farmers’ parliament

Both campaigns that have been promoted on social media, aim to raise awareness in the run-up to the Kisan Mukti Sansad, a farmer’s parliament in Delhi on November 20. It is at the farmers’ parliament that the AIKSCC hopes to introduce two bills — Freedom from institutional debt for farmers, and remunerative prices for farmers with a 50% profit margin on the cost of production. Once passed at the farmers’ parliament, AIKSCC hope the government will also meet their demands.  

On the issue of debt, Kavitha says that they are not looking at karz maafi (debt being forgiven) but karz mukti (freedom from debt). They expect loan waivers in the short term, but want a long-term solution as loan waivers only benefit a small section of farmers who have access to formal credit. As part of a long-term solution, they want bankrupt farmers to have a mechanism where they can get their case addressed, crop insurance, disaster compensation, low-cost farming methods and more. 

Kavitha argues that even if farmers are able to recover what they have invested in crop production, they end up reinvesting the amount for the next season.  

“How is the farm family supposed to run?” she asks.

Ahead of the 2014 Parliamentary Elections, Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had declared that farmers would get a 50% profit margin over their input cost (based on which the MSP was set). This, however, is yet to be delivered.