SKM urges citizens and farmers to punish BJP with ‘vote ki chot’

SKM focuses on Prayagraj and Kaushambi farmer trials in Allahabad while citizens circulate pamphlets on dire issues

SKMRepresentation Image

Continuing with the “Vote ki Chot” campaign, farmers’ umbrella body Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) is now focusing on farmers’ grievances specific to Prayagraj and Kaushambi regions of Uttar Pradesh. During a press conference on February 23, 2022, members spoke about the farmer community’s anger towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for leaving farmers high and dry on written promises regarding MSP and other demands. Farmer and worker leaders appealed to peasants across Uttar Pradesh to “punish” the ruling regime for deceiving farmers.

SKM member Sunil Sunilam reminded that 715 farmers were martyred during the farmers struggle, but neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi, nor UP Chief Minister Ajay Bisht (Yogi Adityanath) gave their condolences. Moreover, farmer-Centre understanding on December 9, 2021 failed despite a month and a half long wait. SKM’s Mission UP is a reactionary campaign resulting from this failure of the ruling regime to build farmers’ trust.

“We have visited 25 districts so far and, be it any phase, UP farmers have well-received our appeal to punish farmers. We only want to say that if ‘bulldozer baba’ comes back then the three laws will return,” said Sunilam. He said that even when doing away with the laws, the government called the laws ‘good’ but repealed it “for fear of elections”. Similarly, he called the bail to Lakhimpur Kheri massacre accused Ashish Mishra “salt on farmers’ wound” that only worsened with the furlough to Ram Rahim in Haryana.

SKM member Yogendra Yadav pointed out that the government could have appealed to the High Court bail, especially considering the 302 charge against Mishra. However, far from an appeal, Ashish’s father Ajay Mishra remains in power as a Union Minister.

“They didn’t make an MSP committee despite time since December. Then they claimed they couldn’t because of the election. The FIRs against farmers have not been withdrawn, nor have families received any compensation. [Regarding the bail] SKM had to go and appeal to the courts against the bail with advocate Prashant Bhushan arguing the case because the government does not want to argue this,” said Yadav.

UP farmer grievances

In its manifesto, the BJP talked about the issue of stray cattle. Prayagraj and Kaushambi areas are also suffering from the same menace, but did not reap any benefits under BJP-governance. SKM said that after five years of “rule” the state government has converted farmers’ cattle into “awara” animals and reduced their crop into “chara” (fodder).

“The Prime Minister says the party has a scheme for stray animals which it will implement after March 10. But he doesn’t say what the scheme is,” said Yadav.

In Allahabad, the electricity department sent inflated bills in rural areas in the last three years and raided worker and Dalit bastis (neighbourhoods) and farmers tube wells, said the SKM. Farmer leaders said that rather than using legal measures, the department disconnected the electricity of the region and seized the motors of tube wells to extract payments.

“In Punjab agriculture-related electricity is free. In Haryana the price is ₹12 and  then in UP it is 12 times the rate in Haryana. Nobody knows how these prices increase. Gas cylinders went from ₹400 to ₹1,000. All of this the people did not realise because their attention was diverted,” said SKM member Rakesh Tikait.

Members condemned the party for creating communal rifts in UP to divert people’s attention from real issues. However, leaders said that the farmers’ struggle has helped local farmers demand accountability.

Yadav claimed that the Hijab controversy was created as a diversion as well but it won’t reach UP especially after the September 5 farmers Muzaffarnagar rally where the peasantry came together.

Leaders said farmers will now focus on real issues such as mining controversies in the land. On June 24, 2019 the Yogi-led government passed an illegal order that said, the government used satellite imaging to survey an exposed area “from Yamuna river in Prayagraj (Allahabad) district”and approved it for mining sand. The order rendered lakhs of sand workers unemployed.

“The ruling was given in the Environment and Forest Minister’s name. But the Sand Mining Management Guidelines of 2016 clearly state that for sustainable sand mining 3 meters or 10 percent width of river, whichever is more, will be left intact as no mining zone to maintain safety and stability of river banks,” said SKM member Dr. Ashish Mittal.

Nonetheless, the administration and police crushed more than 20 boats of Nishads with JCB machines on February 4, 2021. Prior to this on February 4, 2019 it crushed several boats in Bhakanda village, Kaushambi and also in Mirzapur along Ganga river and Kushinagar along Gandak river.

It is noteworthy that Shankargarh, Koraon and Mirzapur have a large population of Kol and other Adivasi groups who are deprived of their basic livelihood and forest rights. Most of the gram sabha land was given to the forest department. The community should have received pattas on these lands to mine gravel and convert it into agricultural land. They also should have received ‘Scheduled Tribe’ status but none of this was done.

Instead, the area saw instances of illegal trade in urea in the last one and a half months. SKM alleged that hoarding and illegal marketing were promoted by one of the three contentious farm laws as well but here “big traders and BJP members have freely indulged” in the act. Despite this, the SKM said that the government performed well in paddy procurement compared to past years. However, it claimed that all farmers had to pay a bribe of ₹ 200 to ₹ 500 per quintal before giving their thumb impression at purchase centres and receiving cheques.

“We appealed to all farmers and workers to convert this election in a fight for their rights and to oppose the RSS-BJP which has been attacking these rights to help corporates and MNCs,” said Mittal.

Similarly, Tikait said, “We don’t know which government will come next. But we ask that whoever comes to power come through on their promises.”

State of UP education

Aside from agriculture, Tikait condemned the government for continuing with election campaigns and keeping schools closed. A pamphlet created by concerned citizens also reflected on the worsening condition of education in the state. On January 26, 2022, the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP) released the ‘Prioritizing Learning During Covid-19’ report that warned a slowdown in learning progress relative to pre-Covid cohorts. The World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF (2021) estimated that school closures of one year map on average to one year of lost learning.

“They do not open but election rallies continue? This is a scheme to maintain labour supply in the country. They want to keep children from schools,” said Tikait.

An earlier emergency sample report by the School Children’s Online and Offline Learning (SCHOOL) in 2021, corresponds to this claim. As per the report, 8 percent of children in rural areas were studying online regularly. However, as many as 37 percent of children were not able to study at all! Moreover, within rural areas 43 percent SC/ST children were not able to study – a number much more concerning than the 25 percent for other children.

It also said that 55 percent SC/ST children lived in houses without smartphones. 22 percent SC/ST children had regular access to education, but only 5 percent of online children attend online classes, not just videos. Unsurprisingly, only 13 percent of these parents are satisfied with the online study material. 45 percent SC/ST children are unable to read more than a few letters.

Developmental projects affect tribal communities first and yet they are left in the dark about their rights. In such an unequal world, the administration must ensure Adivasi children’s education and vocational skills. According to teachers in the rural region, insufficient teaching staff is a persisting problem in schools across UP.

Rising oil prices

According to Indian Express, mustard oil’s all-India average retail price recorded at ₹ 184.15 per kg on October 8, 2021. This was a staggering rise in value compared to 2020 when the price of mustard oil on the same date was ₹ 128.5 per kg. At least 22 centres, including Mumbai and Lucknow, reported even higher prices of ₹ 200 and above.

Mustard oil was the costliest of the six edible oils for which the government maintains retail and wholesale price data. Other data points showed that groundnut oil sold for ₹ 182.61 per kg, vanaspati oil sold for ₹ 136.59 per kg, soya oil sold for ₹ 155 per kg, sunflower oil sold for ₹ 169.53 per kg and palm oil sold for ₹ 132.91 per kg. All these prices showed all oils barring groundnut oil witnessed an increase of at least 30 percent over the previous year.

In the last one year, labourers, healthcare workers like ASHAs and frontline workers like anganwadi workers and helpers suffered a huge blow to their income. If a labourer lost a job, an ASHA or anganwadi personnel reported no payment for their work in the last 3-4 months. Even mid-day meal workers talked about their inability to buy cooking oil for their children.

To say nothing of the horrifying state of healthcare in the state that was condemned by experts and High Court judges alike. Farmers and citizens alike have started campaigns like the Paigam-e-Mohabbat. Organisers have only one goal in mind – to combat the communal drift and bring people’s attention back to relevant issues.


UP: 18 police officers face the music for alleged fake encounter

CJP flags BJP MLA from UP Mayankeshwar Singh’s communal hate speech to SEC

Hijab Ban: Identity politics or body policing?

UP: Anganwadi workers demand payment for election duties



Related Articles