Kisan Diwas: Are we paying enough attention to our farmers? By Bushra Satkhed

National Farmers’ Day is an annual celebration observed on 23rd December in India, on the birthday of the fifth Prime Minister of IndiaChoudhary Charan Singh, who was also a farmer’s leader. He had introduced many policies to improve the lives of the Indian farmers during his tenure. This day is celebrated to promote awareness amongst the citizens of the country about the importance of the farmers to the society and the overall socio-economic development of the country. Many programs, debates, seminars, discussions, workshops, exhibitions and functions are organized for the farmers at divisional, district and block levels across the nation. But what is the point of dedicating one day for our farmers when we forget to think about them for the rest of the year? 

Every day, when we sit down for our meals, we feel grateful and blessed to have food on our table. However, when we consume even a single grain of food, do we remember our food-givers, that is, our farmers, who contribute to the country’s progress? Farmers are the backbone of our society and they grow food for us even after facing the greatest difficulties. They burn their skins and work through their miseries to feed us. We must look after their well being and appreciate them, but we seem to have failed to do this.

About a month ago, we might have started to think about them due to the Dilli Chalo farmers’ agitation which began when farmers from Punjab and Haryana started to protest against the new farm laws that were passed by the centre earlier this year. The anti-farm law demonstration has intensified now as the farmers continue to camp out in the cold weather, with limited food and shelter at the Delhi border, waiting for the government to fulfill their demands.

People are coming forward in support of the farmers in their demonstration from not just the national capital, but all over India and abroad. Voices are being raised from foreign countries like Canada and USA as well. Last week, a 65-year-old Sikh priest from a Gurudwara in Karnal district of Haryana, identified as Sant Baba Ram Singh shot himself at Kundli, near the Singhu border after he joined their protest. In his supposed suicide note he claimed to feel the pain by the plight of the farmers and sacrificed himself to portray his disappointment and anger towards the government for not listening to the farmers’ demand of withdrawing the bills, leaving the distressed farmers out in the harsh environment to suffer.

Furthermore, the protesting farmers say that they are ready to sit for a whole year and put up with the strenuous circumstances to get their rights. They believe that if they don’t fight today, they will be destroyed forever and if they don’t raise their voices now, it will be taken away from them. Their children have no choice but to work in fields due to unemployment. They say that this protest is not just a farmers’ protest; it is the fight of every citizen in the country who eats the food grown by them. They have put up a strong fight for justice and continue to do so, even after being harshly met with barricades, tear gas, water cannons, police violence, lathi-charges, and warnings of facing strict legal actions. They have declared that they will not run away from the police or back down from the fear of being splattered with the ‘khalistani narrative’ or being accused of misunderstanding the farm bills. It is shameful for us as Indians to allow our farmers to suffer this way. It is time to take action. Each one of us needs to raise our voice. Today if the rights of farmers are not protected in this country, tomorrow it will affect every one of us, from different religions, to different castes and other variations that exist in our diverse nation. 

This entire situation has brought the attention of the people to its farmers and their interests, who have actually been under duress for decades, even before the country got its independence. Agriculture in India still remains in a dreadful state despite several policies, technologies, and improvements. Every year, the farmers of India have to fight natural disasters such as droughts and floods. They face problems dealing with officials, landlords and are misguided, used and thrashed by powerful players in the market. Farmer suicides in India had always been at peak with an approximate estimation of more than 10 suicides daily. 

So let’s not leave this topic only till the new farm bills or restrict the discussion of farmers only on Kisan Diwas, but bring the spotlight on all the problems that our farmers are facing such as farmers’ education and what steps are being taken by the government for the edification of the farmers to utilize their rights completely as well as initiating talks on bringing reforms to other existing laws that are detrimental to the interests of the farmers such as Land Acquisition Act, 1894, Land Ceiling Act, 1961 and more. We need to educate, liberate and take care of our farmers who have always looked out for us for generations. It is time we step up and give back to them.

A farmer struggles day and night to fill our stomachs and we should pay respect to their hard work as well as encourage others to do the same. It is our duty as citizens of this country towards our farmers to promote their interests, acknowledge their efforts and help them rise up as they don’t just work till the sun goes down, but till the job gets done.