New Delhi: Thousands of farmers from across the country on Friday marched from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street in the heart of the capital seeking loan waiver and higher crop prices and warning political parties not to ignore farmers' plight.
Men and women marched under various banners and with flags and placards in the massive show of strength organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), which was allowed by police to go up to Parliament Street after an initial 'no'.
Most of the marchers shouted slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP-led government, alleging that it had failed them.
A plethora of opposition leaders and farm activists addressed the gathering on Parliament Street, a traditional venue for protest meetings.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana leader and MP Raju Shetti demanded a special session of Parliament to pass two private member Bills he introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2017, seeking a loan waiver and a guaranteed remunerative prices for agricultural commodities based on the recommendations of the M.S. Swaminathan Commission.
"If Modi continues with his anti-farmer policies, he will not come to power in 2019," Shetti warned.
Rajendra Prasad, a farmer from Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, said he and fellow farmers would vote only for political parties which cancel farm loans and give increased minimum support price (MSP).
"I find the input cost is more than the remuneration received for what I produce. And the loan waiver scheme by (the) Yogi (Adityanath) government is a farce," he said. "Modi is not my enemy. But he has not fulfilled the promises he made to farmers."
A farmer from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, Ashutosh Choudhary said the government should be concerned more about farmers' welfare than building a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
"What will we do with the Mandir if we do not have resources to survive? If good income is ensured to farmers, they themselves will build the temple. But for now, farmers' issues should be given priority," he said.
Social activist Medha Patkar led the protest march. The AIKSCC said it had invited Modi to join the protest too.
Addressing the farmers, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India said the congregation was not here to just protest but had emerged as an alternative to existing policies.
The Friday rally is the fourth major farmers' protest held by the AIKSCC, which represents over 200 farm outfits.
On Thursday, several groups of farmers held 'Chalo Dilli' marches from various places in the capital under the banner of AIKSCC.
Many young women whose farmer fathers committed suicide carried the pictures of the dead around the neck as they marched.