New Delhi: After their 41-day protest in the national capital earlier this year, distressed farmers from Tamil Nadu have returned to Jantar Mantar with skulls and bones to renew their agitation for a loan waiver and drought-relief package. The government's promises remain unfulfilled, they claim. But this time, they say, they are more determined than ever.
"Rain or sun, our agitation will not stop," said P Ayyakkannu, President of the National-South Indian Rivers Linking Farmers Association, who is spearheading the agitation involving over 100 farmers who have camped on the Jantar Mantar road for "at least 100 days".
The farmers, who arrived on the weekend, were detained by the police after they tried to stage a demonstration near Prime Minister Narendra Modi's residence. They were later taken to Parliament Street police station.
In April, Tamil Nadu farmers had pressed their demands by shaving their heads, partially shaving their moustaches, holding mice and snakes in their mouths, mock funerals and flogging themselves. They even carried skulls of other farmers who had committed suicide due to debt pressure and threatened to drink their own urine.
With 60 per cent deficit in rainfall, Tamil Nadu witnessed its worst drought in 140 years. The farmers demanded a Rs. 40,000-crore drought relief package, farm loan waiver and setting up of the Cauvery Management Board by the centre, crop insurance for individual farmers and remunerative prices for their produce. They called off their protest after an assurance from Chief Minister E Palaniswami that their demands will be met.
However, they feel cheated, they said.
"Both state and Central governments did not fulfill the promises they made to us. They had assured us that our mortgaged jewellery would not be sold. However, banks have started selling the jewellery. Now, they are going to sell our land as well," Ayyakannu told NDTV.
"We had no option but to resume our protest. Due to water crisis and drought in the state, farmers are under a huge financial burden. We are almost destroyed. We don't care if we die protesting here," he added.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had stayed an order by the Madras High Court that had in April extended the loan waiver to all farmers even though the scheme intended to help only small and marginal farmers with 5 acres of land. The government had moved the top court in May against the order.
"The state government has waived loans of some farmers, but we want a complete loan waiver. Also, we want the Central government to ensure remunerative prices for agricultural produce and interlinking of rivers to solve the water problem," Ayyakannu said.