In another instance of blatant apathy, the central government declared it has no data on the number of farmers martyred or charged with cases during the farmers struggle, thus dismissing the question of compensation.
On December 1, 2021 Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Tomar answered questions from many MPs regarding the farmers’ struggle that completed a year of protests in November. Among other things, the questions inquired about:
- the number of cases registered against agitating farmers,
- data on the number of farmers who died during the agitations and
- details of government efforts to provide financial assistance.
However, to all this Tomar gave a written reply, “The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has no record in the matter and hence the question does not arise.”
The statement has left MPs and farmer leaders alike in shock.
Agriculture Minister tells parliament no data exists on farmer agitation deaths hence question of compensation does not arise.
Ek Saath Sabh Murdey Boley Sabh Kuch Changa Changa!
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) December 1, 2021
NDA = No Data Available Govt
NO Data of Healthcare staff who died
NO Data of MSMEs closed due to Covid
NO Data on Migrant workers’ deaths
NO Data on job loss during pandemic
NO Data on Beneficiaries of ₹20 Lakh Cr package
NO Data of Farmers’ deaths in Farm law protest pic.twitter.com/dGuwsse4QD
— KTR (@KTRTRS) December 1, 2021
The statement was harshly condemned by farmers group Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) that has kept a detailed record of all farmers who were martyred since November 26, 2020.
“As the central government continues to say it has no records of deaths of protesting farmers, the SKM reminds that officials stood in silence to pay homage to the martyrs during the formal talks last year. This movement has a record of all the brave martyrs of the movement and is waiting for the government to fulfill the demand for rehabilitation of the kin of martyrs,” said SKM leaders in a joint statement.
Nearly 700 farmers died while demanding farmers rights in the last 12 months. As many as 50 such deaths occurred in October 2021 alone. Further the Human Cost of Farmers Protest blog recorded at least 687 deaths by November 29, including 39 deaths by suicide.
Following the repeal of the three laws, farmer leaders reiterated that the central government is responsible for these deaths since it refused to listen to farmer demands sooner. As such, it had declared rehabilitation and compensation to kin as a major demand. Yet the SKM noted the government continues “to insult the huge sacrifices being made by protesting farmers” by saying that it has no record of deaths.
Another major demand of the SKM is the dismissal of all cases against protesting farmers. Advocate Vasu Kukreja told Sabrang India that there are a whopping 50 thousand farmers are currently facing various charges across India. It may be noted that 48 thousand of these farmers are from Haryana – a state ruled by the BJP government. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar earlier said that it will act on these FIRs as per the directions of the central government.
In light of all this, it is shocking that the government is claiming ignorance about the struggles of farmers, while simultaneously stating that it “engaged itself actively and constantly with the agitating farmer unions.” Tomar referred to the 11 round of talks between farmers and ministers. However, even the Electricity (Amendment) Bill that was dismissed during these talks was reintroduced in the Parliament recently. This is one of the reasons why farmers remain disappointed about the undemocratic manner in which the three laws were dismissed during the winter session – without any discussion.
“Farmers movement feels perplexed by the government continuing to deny the very high price that the struggle had to pay to secure basic rights of citizens,” said the SKM.
Aside from these humanitarian demands, farmers have also demanded a legal guarantee to MSP and dismissal of laws penalising farmers for stubble burning and similar activities like the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021 and the AQM legislature. Regarding the former, Tomar said the Government of India announces Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for 22 major agricultural commodities of Fair Average Quality (FAQ) each year in both the crop seasons after taking into account the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). Moreover, he said the government is implementing Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan’ (PM-AASHA), an umbrella scheme to ensure Minimum Support Price (MSP) to farmers. However, it did not respond to farmers’ persevering assertion for a law mandating the government for MSP procurement at C2 + 50 percent production.