NEW DELHI – Thousands of farmers, accompanied by widows and orphans of deceased farmers, protested on Monday in the Indian capital to demand that the government ensure better prices and the waiver of unpayable loans which drive more than 12,000 farmers in the country to commit suicide annually.
The protest, convened by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, a group which coordinates more than 180 farmer associations in several Indian states, saw thousands of farmers from across the country protest in New Delhi.
“There is a serious crisis in agriculture in the country and so far we have lost more than 3 lakh farmers (three hundred thousand farmers), who have committed suicide,” Chukki Nanjundaswamy, president of the association of farmers from the southern state of Karnataka, told EFE.
Two main demands were made to Prime Minister Narendra Modi: that prices be 50 percent higher than the production costs and that loans be waivered.
Dozens of widows and children of farmers who have committed suicide sat in front of the protesters and showed photographs of their deceased family members.
Such is the case of 18-year-old B. Manisha, whose parents, harassed by creditors for a loan of 300,000 rupees ($4,608), ended up taking their own lives three years ago.
Since then, Manisha and her brother have been living at their grandparents’ home on a meager pension drawn by one of them, due to which she is compelled to work and cannot study.
“If farmers are paid well for their crops, then the suicides will stop,” she said.
However, not everyone is giving up and there are people who plan to stay in Delhi for several days so that their demands are heard.
“We are not suiciding, but we are ready to fight,” said the 58-year old indebted farmer Kishori Prasad.
The agricultural sector, which finds itself at the mercy of droughts or floods, suffers particularly in India, where on many occasions farmers face helpless situations due to the debts incurred when their crops are destroyed, which leads them to commit suicide, often by consuming pesticides or jumping into wells.
According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, 12,602 cases of farmer suicide were registered in 2015, with the western state of Maharashtra topping the list with 4,291 cases.