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No end to plight of Tamil Nadu farmers protesting at Jantar Mantar

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The agitation by Tamil Nadu farmers at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar has entered its week three but assurances have remained mere lip service. Politicians and celebrities alike have visited the agitating farmers in the last 17 days. While some stand in solidarity with the protesting farmers, others have tried to convince them to give up protests. The farmers, meanwhile have taken to different styles of protest to draw the government's attention to their plight.

Drought-hit farmers demand loan waiver

Drought-hit farmers demand loan waiver

Farmers from Trichy, Karur and Thanjavur regions, the rice bowls of Tamil Nadu, have been protesting at Delhi's Jantar Mantar demanding that their loans with nationalised banks be written off owing to loss of crop. Tamil Nadu, much like its neighbours Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana has witnessed severe drought affecting the agricultural sector immensely.

While the loans from state-run banks were written off by former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, farmers have demanded that their loans with the nationalised banks also be waived off.

All photograph credits: PTI

Of skulls, suicide and mock funerals

Of skulls, suicide and mock funerals

Farmers protesting at Jantar Mantar drew the media and political class' attention by protesting with skulls of farmers, that they claimed, to be of those who had committed suicide due to crop failure and mounting debts. Ever since, the 100 plus farmers have protested with mock funerals while a couple of the protesters attempted suicide. One of the protesters was rescued by fire and safety [ersonnel after he climbed a tree and attempted to hang himself in protest. On Sunday, agitating farmers held a mock funeral protest to convey that farming was dying a slow death in the country much like its farmers.

Support pours in

Support pours in

The Tamil community in Delhi has been extending their support to the agitating farmers from their home state. Meanwhile, celebrities such as Vishal and Prakash Rai visited the agitators to express their solidarity with their cause.

Tamil Nadu has seen a severe drought in the last one year which resulted in the failure of both summer and winter crops. Acute shortage of water has come as another bane to the already suffering agriculture sector.

Politicians and their promises

Politicians and their promises

Cutting across party lines, politicians from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have visited the agitating farmers at Jantar Mantar. While some have expressed their support to the cause, others have encouraged the protesters to give up agitation and hold talks with the central government.

DMK MPs T K S Elangovan, R S Bharathi and Thiruchi Shiva, Tamil Nadu Agriculture Minister R Doraikkannu, Pondicherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, G K Vasan, the Tamil Manila Congress chief are just a few names from Tamil Nadu who visited the agitating farmers. More than 20 MPs have met them so far but with no positive results.

Their demands

Their demands

The agitating farmers are demanding that their loans from nationalised banks be forgiven, fair and just prices be set for their produce. They are also compelling the government to come up with realistic solutions to the water scarcity in the state.

They have sought Rs 40,000 crore as drought relief as well as interlinking of rivers and setting up a Cauvery Management Water Board. The issue of drying up of the Tamil Nadu leg of the river Kaveri has also been raised, and the farmers have proposed the Smart Waterways Project, conceptualised by AC Kamaraj, as a viable solution.

Heart-wrenching stories of farmers

One of the protesters, G Mahadevan claimed that he had taken a loan of R 1 lakh almost 5-6 years ago but had not been able to pay it back. With added interest, the amount he owes now has increased to Rs 3-4 lakh. "Last year, the bank issued a default notice that they may take over my property, which my wife received while I was not home. She had a heart attack and passed away when she read it," he recalled.

"I have two wells. They have both dried up. If they release some of the Cauvery water, then this will recharge my wells too," said Ramesh who threatened to committee suicide in protest.

United farmers union

United farmers union

The Bharatiya Kisan Manch extended support to the agitating farmers and put up a united front raising their demands before the government. A large number of people gathered at Jantar Mantar including farmers from Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Many young faces also came out, including college students belonging to the Tamil community. "We are here to support the Tamil farmers. We should be grateful for the food we eat, the water we drink and the clothes we wear. But unfortunately, the government isn't", said Suresh, an MBBS student to India Today.

Relief package

The Tamil Nadu government had sought Rs 30,000 plus in drought-relief claiming that the state was facing the worst drought in 140 years. Cyclone Vardah compounded the misery, the government claimed. The central government, however, has approved only Rs 2000 crore as drought relief so far. "We don't have money, clothes or crops and nothing to reap. Tamil Nadu is suffering the worst drought in the last 140 years and the government is releasing only Rs 2000 crores for our relief. This seems like a joke," said a protester.

Photo credit: PTI

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