By Deepak Parvatiyar
Madurai: Gandhian activist Anna Hazare has decided to once again launch an andolan from New Delhi’s Ramleela Ground on March 23 – observed as martyrs’ day — next year, this time to highlight growing agrarian and water crisis in the country.
From Madurai, the erstwhile seat of ancient Pandyan dynasty that had developed the renowned Pandyan tank system for water management, Anna gave a call for “Chalo Dilli” at the inauguration of a national consultation meet on ‘Restoration of environmental flow of rivers at their basin levels, alternative ways to share and manage water resources’, here on Sunday. Anna said the andolan would be similar to the anti corruption movement of August 2011, when he had sat on a hunger strike and the ground was jam packed by people who supported his cause, for 23 days.
“Today farmers are in very bad condition. They are committing suicide. Yesterday I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister providing him details of the last ten years of the central cuts on rates for the farmers. I have sent him the list of the rates that were recommended by state governments for crops and what the centre actually granted…For example the state recommendation for paddy was Rs. 2700 but the state brought it down by half at Rs. 1360.
Similarly in the last ten years, while the cost of cultivation of cotton has increased six times, there has been an increment in cotton rates of just Rs. 2000,” he said.
Stressing that the farmers should have the first right on rivers and village water bodies, successive governments were according priority to industry. “The first priority should be drinking water. The second priority should be agriculture water. Water for industry should only be the third priority,” he said.
It may be pointed out that farmers’ suicide has become a major issue. In July, the government had informed the Parliament that in face of failing monsoons and resulting agrarian crisis, that 11,400 and 12,602 farmers had committed suicide across the country respectively in 2016 and, in 2015.
“Today banks is lending money to farmers on their own terms. Some are lending at 8% interest, some at 9%, some at 10%. They are charging compound interest which means paying interest on interest. Farmers end up paying as high as 24% interest. How will they pay?” he asked.
Water activists and scientists from South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh as well as Maharashtra are attending the three-day brain storming session consultation process under the leadership of Magsaysay award winner ‘Waterman’ Rajendra Singh. Singh said the consultation meeting has been called to involve South Indian people to discuss the water problem in south India to find a way out.