Tens of activists attached with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), led by Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, and Aruna Roy of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, have in a statement condemned the Tamil Nadu government’s alleged ignorance and apathy towards farmer’s issues. Text:
When in the end of January 2017 lakhs of demonstrators occupied the Marina in Chennai to support Jallikattu and protests against the ban of the sport took place in numerous towns all over Tamil Nadu, this drew national attention, but it was not widely understood at that time that this was also a powerful expression of the long-drawn crisis in agriculture.
The crisis was already in full view in a mass meeting in Tanjore on 31st December 2016, the third death anniversary of Nammalvar, the organic agriculture farmer and scientist, who had mobilised the Cauvery Delta against Methane mining and died in the strain of that mobilisation three years ago.
In the meantime, Tamil Nadu farmers have been facing the most severe drought in 140 years. In the face of failed crops and large unpaid loans, at least 106 farmers have committed suicide in a period of one month. The Central Government is yet to waive off loans owed to nationalised banks and has only released Rs 2,000 crore so far as drought relief to the State.
In response, over 85 farmers have been staging spectacular protests in New Delhi for one month. Their demands are:
- Write off the agricultural loans
- Fair price for agricultural goods
- Rs 40000 crore to be provided as relief
- Cauvery Water Management Board to be set up to solve the water crisis.
Many of the leaders of the Jallikattu protest, including S.Rajesh, Social and Agro activist Thanga Shanmuga Sundaram, Le.Bala, Abdul and Arul Doss, National Convener of the National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements, have been convening since, to discuss the plight of the state’s farmers. They have staged multiple protests in March – April 2017, demanding that the State Government pay attention to the farmer protests, as well as the possible repercussions of the Methane and Neutrino projects.
About 1000 farmers were dispersed from the YMCA grounds in Saidapet, Chennai on March 25, at one such protest. Large numbers of policemen were stationed in the neighbourhood, chasing the protestors away from a meeting that was to be held at private premises. Following a protest at ValluvarKottam on April 1 and consequent arrests, these activists have also met with, the Chief Minister of TamilNadu Edappadi R.Palanisamy and submitted a Petition. They were only told that the State Government is doing all it can to emphasize the demands of the farmers at the Centre. In the meantime, the Supreme Court has severely condemned the State government for not addressing the issue of farmer suicides effectively.
Successful Blockade of Kathipaara flyover and Arrests
Almost a month after Tamil Nadu farmers started protests in New Delhi, the centre is yet to take any concrete steps towards addressing the grievance of the farmers. In order to show solidarity to the protesting farmers and to express their disappointment about the absence of any action from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these activists, joined by film director V.Gowthaman, among others, staged a protest in Chennai’s arterial Kathipaara flyover on April 13. They chained off traffic for 45 minutes, bringing the city to a standstill. The protestors were subsequently arrested and remanded to judicial custody in Puzhal jail. The protestors who are in Jail are on hunger strike to further press for their demand.
National Alliance of People’s Movements demands speedy action from Central Government and State Government in response to the plight to drought-stricken and debt-ridden farmers and their families. We fully support the demands of the farmers’ struggle in Delhi. The blocking of Kathipaara flyover has been a brave step to draw attention to the untenable situation of TamilNadu farmers.
We demand speedy release of the protestors and immediate action in support of farmers.
- Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
- Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and NAPM
- Prafulla Samantara, – Lok Shakti Abhiyan & NAPM, Odisha
- Lingraj Azad – Samajwadi Jan Parishad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha
- Binayak Sen and Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
- Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party and NAPM, Uttar Pradesh
- Sudhir Vombatkere, Senior Activist, NAPM, Karnataka
- Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai and NAPM, TN
- Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN
- Arul Doss, NAPM Tamil Nadu
- Arundhati Dhuru, Nandlal Master, Manesh Gupta – NAPM, UP
- Richa Singh, Sangatin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, NAPM-UP
- Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan and Prof. Kusumam, NAPM, Kerala
- Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan Sangathan, NAPM-Uttarakhand & Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand
- Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union & NAPM, Karnataka
- Rukmini V P, Garment Labour Union, NAPM, Karnataka
- Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant – Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat
- Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan & NAPM Bihar
- Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar
- Sister Dorothy, NAPM Bihar
- Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-Moolnivasi Astivtva Raksha Samiti, NAPM Jharkhand
- Dr Sunilam and Adv. Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti NAPM Madhya Pradesh
- Bhupender Singh Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini, NAPM, Delhi
- Rajendra Ravi, Nanu Prasad, Madhuresh Kumar, Amit Kumar, Himshi Singh, Uma Kapari, Zaved Mazumder, NAPM, Delhi
- Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, NAPM Haryana
- J S Walia, NAPM Haryana
- Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan
- Amitava Mitra & Avik Saha, NAPM West Bengal
- Chennaiah, Andhra Prdaesh Vyavasaya Vruttidarulua Union (APVVU) and NAPM-AP
- Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI and NAPM, AP
- Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe – NAPM, Maharashtra;
- Gautam Bandopadhyay, NAPM, Chhatisgarh
- Anjali Bharadwaj, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and NAPM
- Kaladas Dahariya, RELAA, Chhatisgarh
- Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai
- Meera Sanghamitra, NAPM Telangana-AP