Indian farmers have repeatedly staged large demonstrations over the past year, accusing the authorities of failing to support their livelihood and demanding government assistance. Earlier this year, farmers and indigenous groups marched to India's financial capital Mumbai with the same set of demands. Similar protests have taken place in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, when police opened fire on farmers. In April last year, A group of farmers from the southern state of Tamil Nadu staged a bizarre protest showcasing skulls and eating mice to highlight their plight with the aim of getting a relief package and loans waived from the government.
Now, farmers from across India have flooded by trains and buses into Delhi since Thursday to mass in the capital city's Ramlila grounds before marching to parliament. Participants marched through central Delhi chanting slogans and holding placards emblazoned with "Down With Modi Government" and "Long Live Farmer Unity" as thousands of riot and armed policemen stood guard. Over 200 farmer organizations belonging to the All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee have organized the latest march in Delhi. Organizers said some 80,000 farmers and farm laborers were participating in the two-day agitation.
"These movements can be seen as an articulation of socio-cultural grievances. This march is for the liberation of farmers from the spectre of suicides and from various forms of exploitation propagated by the state," Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India, a political organization, told DW.
Farmers in India often take loans to buy agricultural or irrigation equipment. But when there is a poor monsoon or natural calamity, farmers are unable to repay the loans and are forced to borrow more to manage expenses. Also, many small farmers not eligible for bank credit at exorbitant interest rates from private sources. Two-thirds of India's population of 1.3 billion depends on farming for their livelihood, but agriculture makes up just around 17 percent of the nation's total economic output, amounting to about $2.3 trillion. Each year millions of small farmers suffer due to scant irrigation facilities that reduce the yield and leads farmers into a deadly cycle of debt and suicides. India lacks a robust irrigation infrastructure and most of the country's farmland relies on annual monsoon rains.