The Human cost of farmers Protest

With the death of farmer Sushil Kajal in Haryana the total number of farmers who have given their life to this movement climbs up to 602*. Sayunkt Kisan Morcha is collating the data of deaths of farmers. The farmers protest has entered into ninth month with lacs of farmers sitting on the borders of Delhi. The agitations against the political parties and specifically BJP have also strengthened in the states bordering Delhi.

Who are the dead farmers?

The maximum number of farmer deaths come from Punjab followed by Haryana and other states. As per data maintained by SKM upto Feb 2021, 248 farmers had died in the movement. As per their more recent data around 550 farmers had died out of which Punjab has a lions share of 350.

One thing that is common among all the dead farmers is that they were not rich farmers or the land cruiser owners but owners of an average of 2.59 acres of land. The maximum land owned by farmer who has died in the movement so far is 2 acres. These small marginal farmers have understood the effects of three laws and how they will lose their land share. Contrary to many Indian Right wing media claims and experts, it is not the large or Big Agriculturist or farmer that will suffer when laws are implemented but the small and marginal farmer who will be at the mercy of corporations for his livelihood.

An interesting insight into the farmer deaths in Punjab indicates that almost every farmer who died in the farmers protest has an average debt of 7lacs. In most cases this debt is non institutionalised (meaning not from the banks but private lenders). The problem of reforms in agriculture have pushed farmers to deaths on and off the borders of Delhi.

What has government done for the dead farmers?

The central government has said explicitly that it has no data on the farmer deaths and is still to acknowledge farmer deaths as alarming or triggering happening. Many in Haryana Govt too are not sympathetic to the deaths and have called the deaths as ‘normal’. JP Dalal, Agriculture minister of Haryana has gone on record to say that farmers would have died anyway even if they were in their homes.

Punjab government however has tried to stay with farmers in their thick and thin throughout the protests. Punjab legislative assembly on its day one of session had remembered the fallen farmers by standing in silence for the farmers.

Captain Amrinder Singh in January announced that his government would provide jobs to one family member each of those from the state who died during the farmers’ agitation at Delhi borders. The offer of government jobs was in addition to the compensation of ₹5 lakh that was supposed to be given to the families.

Punjab Government finally has given the orders of jobs to 104 legal heirs of the farmers who died during the protests.

Sikh body SGPC helped 153 families, who lost their member during the agitation by giving them Rs one lakh each in form of compensation. Similarly, 23 injured farmers were paid from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 per head depending upon the nature of injury.

Broken skulls and broken families haven’t broken the resolve of Farmers

21 Year old Amin Khan says, “My father Major Khan died at the age of 42. He was the sole bread-winner of the family. We own just over an acre, but corporatisation of agriculture would sound the death-knell for small farmers like us. As a tribute to his sacrifice, both my grandmother and I regularly participate in the protests,”

Tales like this are commonplace in Punjab, as nine months have elapsed since the farmers have been protesting outside Delhi. Referred to as “shaheed” in villages, their families instead of grieving for them, have only firmed up their resolve to continue the protests till the laws are withdrawn.

The farmers faced brutal lathicharge in Karnal on Saturday. SDM Karnal Ayush Sinha was seen briefing the team of policemen to break the skulls of farmers, what followed was many fractured limbs and stitched skulls of farmers. The family of farmer who allegedly died due to lathicharge maintains that their fight against the three laws will continue until the laws are repealed.

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