Following in the footsteps of the long march of farmers in Maharashtra, Odisha peasants and farmers staged a massive rally emphasizing fulfillment of similar demands in Bhubaneswar, Odisha on Monday. As many as 306 farmers are on an indefinite hunger strike as a part of a peaceful Satyagraha for their rights. This is the third day of the hunger strike.
As many as 15000 farmers came out on streets, marching from Master Canteen to Lower PMG in Bhubaneshwar, demanding that the state budget should make necessary provisions to pay pension of Rs. 5000 per month to farmers of the state. They also demanded allocation of Rs. 21,600 crore in the state budget to this end.
The farmers have been brought together by the organisation, Navnirman Krishak Sangathan (NKS) and are demanding an increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy to Rs. 3000 per quintal from the present meagre sum of Rs. 1550.
Farmers in Odisha have been organising rallies, movements and demonstrations during the past five years for good prices, prestige and pension for farmers in the state.
“Demands of farmers are almost similar across the country. Not only in Maharashtra, peasants from Kutch to Arunachal and Kashmir to Kanyakumari will come out soon protesting the government’s lackadaisical attitude in solving the problems of the farming community” said Akshaya Kumar, the NKS convenor.
Sangtahan members have decided to continue their peaceful protest at the Lower PMG till their demands are met.
Seshadev Nanda, co-ordinator of the farmer body said, “We are fighting for 36 lakh marginal and small farmers of the state. The government has to give pension to the peasants to bail them out from the dangerous web of loan and crop loss”
Nanda also said that the state government has to give priority to agriculture sector by constructing irrigation points and canals. He added that the government needs to strengthen infrastructure and create opportunities for farmers to make agricultural activities a profitable business. Farmers also say that this struggle is a struggle for human dignity and will be fought at any cost.
Though Anand Prasad Satpathy, the government’s chief whip, said that his government is taking all measures to help the farmers of the state, the protesters have alleged that despite them being on strike for the last three days, no one from the state government has come to meet the farmers. “If they don’t listen to our valid demands, we will intensify our struggle and on March 16, we will launch a Satyagraha in front of each district head-quarter” said Akshaya Kumar.
*** Images courtesy Navnirman Krishak Sangathan