By Tazeen Qureshy
Bhubaneswar: On a wet Monday morning, hundreds of people wearing the symbolic ‘Gandhi Topi’ were spotted converging on Lower PMG, while a few thousand others marched in a rally. ‘Inquilab chahiye’ (We want revolution)’ the group kept chanting, drawing the attention of the commuters on the road. The group had people of all ages – from elderly to middle-aged, young mass and even a few toddlers resting on their mother’s shoulders gazing curiously at everyone.
For many, it was another ‘Chashi Samabesh’ (farmers’ convention) by yet another political party – the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in this case – but the large congregation signified much more.
With crop loss, loan burden and lack of marketing avenues leading to farmer suicides not just in Odisha, but the entire country, AAP has called for a nation-wide convention, highlighting the farmers’ plight. But what made the Chashi Samabesh in Bhubaneswar different was the presence of genuine grassroots level workers. The Sabha (public meeting) had farmer representatives from almost all 30 districts speaking on a common platform.
While AAP central leader Sanjay Singh and a few other social activists did address the congregation, the formal meeting was held for barely 30 minutes.
“There is growing resentment among the farmers and this can be seen by the presence of over 7000 farmers today. It is because our focus is on the grassroots level workers that so many people have come together for the convention braving the rains,” says Ajay Das, a farmer leader from Bargarh, who believes in the commitment of AAP to the cause of farmers.
Most of the farmers who turned up for the convention arrived Sunday night and were provided accommodation in Kalyan Mandaps and seven other places.
“Nobody cares about us. We provide food to the country, but when our brothers commit suicides, the government claims it is due to personal reasons. Before elections, politicians promise us 50 per cent hike in MSP, but forget their promise after elections. Does anyone even care?” asks a farmer, who has come all the way from Bargarh.
Addressing the farmers, AAP leader Sanjay Singh raised the election issue and stated things could turn around in 2019 if the farmers’ issues are not addressed.
“AAP is emerging as an alternative now as we are raking up issues concerned with the common people. For the last 15 years in Odisha, farmers have been neglected, mining mafia has become stronger and corporates have flourished. Aam Aadmi party is striving gradually,” Sanjay Singh of AAP told Kalinga TV.
As per data released by National Crime Records Bureau, the farmer suicide in the country has gone up by an alarming 42 per cent.