Thousands of workers and peasants convened in New Delhi to protest the central government and its policies. Photo: CITU
On Wednesday, April 5, thousands of farmers and workers from across India came to the capital New Delhi to protest the central government and its anti-farmer and anti-labor policies. The rally, organized under the banner ‘Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally’ was held at the Ramlila Maidan grounds.
Protesters demanded relief from inflation, a legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) on main crops, minimum wage for all workers at Rs 26,000 (USD 317) per month, debt relief, pension for all farmers above the age of 60, repeal of the four anti-labor codes, and withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020, among other demands. Protesters accused the Narendra Modi-led government of creating a crisis of livelihood for all sections of the working class.
— AIKS (@KisanSabha) April 5, 2023
The rally was jointly organized by three of India’s biggest organizations representing workers, farmers, and agricultural laborers—All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), and All India Agriculture Workers Union (AIAWU), respectively. In the run-up to the rally, an extensive campaign highlighting the demands of the people was carried out in several parts of North India and garnered widespread support. Workers and farm union leaders held joint conventions in over 400 districts to plan the campaign and mobilize the rally in large numbers.
Unions have highlighted several issues plaguing Indian farmers such as stagnant wages, price rises, unemployment, job insecurity, and low returns for farm produce. According to the joint statement, 100,000 farmers have committed suicide in the last eight years. The unions also have raised the alarms over the unprecedented increase in the number of suicides by daily wagers—112,000 in just three years from 2019-2021.
Since the historic farmers’ movement in India in 2020-21, farmers across the country have been joining the struggle for their demands against the diktats of the government.
Last month, on March 12, nearly 10,000 farmers in the State of Maharashtra embarked on a nearly 200 km long-march from Nashik to State capital Mumbai. They were demanding the government to address the problems being faced by farmers and workers in the State. Six days after the movement began, and after the farmers had covered a distance of over 100 km, the government agreed to most of their demands in negotiations.
Maharashtra was also the venue of the historic farmers’ Long March in 2018, when tens of thousands marched from Nashik to Mumbai. Talking about that march, Jagdish, a young farmer, told NewsClick, “At that time, farmers’ issues had become secondary in the State and the country. We brought farmers’ struggles to the center of power. After that, the country saw a successful farmers’ movement for over a year. We again started a movement and forced the government to accept our demands.”