New Delhi, June 1:  Farmers from across the country are set to go on a ten-day strike starting today. Coming under the banner of Rashtriya Kisan Maha Sangh, they are demanding minimum income guarantee scheme, implementation of Swaminathan Commission report and waiver of loans. The strike will also see the farmers halt the supply of milk and vegetables to cities. Farmers of Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat will reportedly be taking part in the nationwide strike.

Farmers representing over 100 organizations had announced their plan on Wednesday. Former BJP Union minister Yashwant Sinha was also present. “Farmers from northern and central India will not supply vegetables, fruits, milk and other crops from June 1 till June 10. We will not go to cities to supply their produce. Farmers will take a ten-day holiday,” Bhartiya Kisan Union president Balbir Singh Rajewal said.

According to reports, the strike is likely to impact only cities in north India where multiple farmer groups have agreed to the call for the strike. In Mandsaur, the police were reported to have made farmers sign bonds of Rs 24,000 that they would not join the strike.

In the wake of farmers’ protest, local administration of Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, has made elaborate security arrangements so that no untoward incident takes place.  Police are installing CCTV cameras on roads and police personnel are being deployed outside milk plant so that the regular services are not disrupted. Police will be keeping vigil on the protesting farmers.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi is also going to hold a rally in Mandsaur on June 6. While in Neemuch, section 144 has been imposed for security reasons. On June 6, the federation will hold a commemoration event at Mandsaur where six farmers were killed in police firing during protests last year. There will also be a symbolic hunger strike on June 8 and on the last day of the bandh.

In Maharashtra, the organisation has reportedly planned a one-day strike outside the offices of Collectors across the state on June 1. In Rajasthan, the organisation plans to hold a memorial function on for the farmers killed in Mandsaur on June 6.

In March, over 30,000 farmers from across the state of Maharashtra had staged a long march against the state government’s “anti-farmer” policies. The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) farmers demanded complete loan waiver from the government.

It must be noted that a similar protest was held by farmers last year as well but the nature of the strike is different this time. Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed this strike as a Congress strike and said these are tactics of the Opposition party.  Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are all set to go to polls by the end of this year. The BJP rules in Maharashtra and Haryana while Punjab has a Congress government. In Madhya Pradesh, farmer issues have taken centerstage.

What is Swaminathan Commission?
On November 18, 2004, the Indian government constituted the National Commission on Farmers which was chaired by Professor M.S. Swaminathan. He submitted five reports to the government. The first was submitted in December 2004 and the fifth and final report was submitted on October 4, 2006. The reports had suggestions for “faster and more inclusive growth” of farmers as was envisaged in the Planning Commission’s Approach to 11th Five Year Plan. The fifth report was the most crucial as it contained suggestions for inclusive growth of farmers and agriculture sector. Dr. Swaminathan had requested the government to implement the recommendations given in the report so that it could provide minimum support price for grains, safeguard the interest of small farmers and addressing the issue of increasing risk overtaking agriculture as a profession.

(With agency inputs)