Chennai: Close on the heels of protests by farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, a group of cultivators led by P Ayyakannu, who had spearheaded a 40-day stir in New Delhi, today launched an “indefinite” protest here pressing for their demands including a comprehensive drought relief package.
They began the protest by paying homage to farmers killed in police firing in Madhya Pradesh. Raising slogans seeking justice for farmers, Mr Ayyakkanu said they faced a slew of problems and urged the government to look into their demands.
He criticised the Tamil Nadu government for going against a recent Madras High Court directive asking it to extend farm loan waiver to all categories of farmers. The government should immediately take steps to disburse comprehensive drought relief and stop dragging its feet on the issue, Mr Ayakkanu said.
Mr Ayyakannu, president of the National South Indian Rivers Inter-Linking Farmers Association, said farmers who had sold paddy to the tune of Rs. 1.5 crore seven months ago at a regulated market at Chetpet in Tiruvannamalai district were yet to get paid, pushing them into a debt trap.
He had staged an ‘eye-grabbing’ protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi before “temporarily” calling it off on April 23 after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami “promised” to meet their demands.
The farmers had then demanded loan waiver, drought relief package of Rs. 40,000 crore and setting up of the Cauvery Management Board.
The group led by Mr Ayyakannu had staged protests by holding human skulls outside the prime minister’s house. While announcing withdrawal of the protest then, they had threatened to resume the agitation in Delhi from May 25 if their demands were not met.
An estimated 10 lakh coconut trees have died across Tamil Nadu’s Salem district, farmers have said, due to the state’s worst drought in 140 years. The drought has not only turned landlords into paupers, but it has also led to the migration of many farmers to cities to work as daily wage labourers.
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