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PUCL Bulletin, November 2006

Notice of unlimited fast from 14th November 2006 to save farmers from committing suicides

Letter to the Prime Minister by Mohan Dharia, October 7, 2006

Dr Manmohan Singh, Hon. Prime Minister of India, Govt of India, New Delhi. Dear Hon. Prime Minister,

. You may be surprised to find this unusual letter. I have been deeply concerned since last two-three years over the suicides by farmers in free India. Amongst other reasons, their inability to repay debt has been a major cause. Instead of straightway unburdening from debts taken by farmers, the Central and State Govts have been announcing several packages with some relief. In spite of such packages the suicides of farmers from rain fed areas continue every day.

To consider the final draft document of the Mission under the Chairmanship of Dr MS Swaminathan, a Workshop was jointly organised by Vanarai, Afarm (having 300 member organisations). CNRI (having nearly 3000 member organisations from all parts of the country) and Yashvantrao Chavan Pratisthan, Mumbai. The Workshop unanimously recommended to abolish all debts of farmers having less than 2 hectares of dry land and to make available required loans at 4 percent interest. Similar suggestions have been made by several organisations of farmers, eminent personalities, social workers and Dr Swaminathan Mission Report.

On 4th of October in an inaugural function chaired by me at Delhi, Dr Raghuwansh Prasad Singh, Hon. Union Minister, Rural Development severely criticised the policies of the Reserved Bank of the Central Govt. on this issue. Similarly Shri Sharad Pawar, Hon. Minister of Agriculture on 6th of October, 2006 categorically suggested at Sangli that the loans given to poor farmers should be set off along with interest and new loans be given to them. Both of them have stated that loans worth crores of Rupees to big industrialists are set off but the poor farmers are penalised. Political parties supporting the Govt. from within and outside have been making similar demand. Even then the Central Govt. is not prepared to accept this genuine and urgent demand for reasons well known to the Govt.

I had been to Agakhan Palace to pay my homage to the great leader Mahatmaji on 2nd October and returned back with determination to stake my life to render justice to millions of our farmers in the country. Since then 1 have been spending sleepless nights. After discussing my concern with several colleagues, I have resolved to address this letter to demand:

1) Debts along with interest of all farmers in the country having a holding of less than 2 Hectares should be immediately written off. All dry .land farmers from areas where it has not rained since last two to three years should be given similar relief.

2) Debts taken from illegal money lenders should be declared - as illegal and necessary police protection be given to I concerned farmers. And

3) Rate of interest for all farmers be brought down to 4 percent. The Central Govt. may consider announcing these decisions, preferably before Diwali Festivals as a special gift to poor farmers. Otherwise any good wishes expressed as a ritual by eminent authorities for Happy Diwali will only expose their hypocrisy.

Come as it may, as a freedom fighter, a person who accepted imprisonment on 10 occasions to secure social justice after freedom and fought against emergency to save our great democracy to protect our farmer's interest. I have decided to go on fast from the morning on 14th November, the birthday of Pandit Jawaharlalji at the Head Quarter of Vanarai, Pune. All my colleagues have resolved to stand by me in this peaceful struggle till justice is secured.

My demands are very clear and there is no room for any clarifications. I am confident that thousands of farmers, their organisations, social organisations, youth, women, member organisations of our Confederation, all political parties committed to serve and save the farmers and various sections of the society will actively support this noble cause.

I am constrained to send this notice. It is being sent prior to 1 month and 7 days in advance to provide adequate time to the Government. I hope that due justice will be done by the Central Government without any delay.

With personal regards, Yours Sincerely

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014