Rise in farmers’ protests show increasing agrarian distress

Instances of farmers taking to streets and clashing with police have risen by almost eight times last year compared to 2014, in what could provide more evidence to growing agrarian distress in the country.

Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka topped the list as latest figures released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed that cases of rioting due to agrarian issues rose to 4,837 from 628 in 2014 and 2,683 in 2015.

The extent of rising anger among farmers could be gauged from the sharp rise in street protests in the past two years, some of which ended in police firing.

Farmers protests2

In 2016, Bihar reported the highest number of such cases with 2,342, almost half of the total cases last year, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 1,709. Karnataka finished a distant third with 231 cases.

Bihar, which was on top of the list for the past three years, recorded only 243 incidents in 2014 but it rose sharply the next year to touch 1,156. The numbers doubled in 2016, according to the ‘Crime in India 2016’ report.

Uttar Pradesh recorded 92 cases in 2014 and 752 in 2015 while Karnataka reported 73 and 52 respectively. For Karnataka, the 2016 figure was a five-time increase compared to 2015.

**********************************************************************

2016

2015

2014

Bihar

2,342

1,156

243

Uttar Pradesh

1,709

752

92

Karnataka

231

52

73

Total (All India)

4,837

2,683

628

 **********************************************************************

Activists attribute the rise in such cases to deepening agrarian crisis in the country where they are not getting enough price for their produce and burdening loans.

Protests against acquisition of agricultural land and inadequate compensation for failed crops among others also add to such cases. They also point to the rising number of farmers’ suicide — from 5,650 incidents in 2014 to 8,007 in 2015 – to buttress their point. Figures for 2016 are not available.

All India Kisan Sabha Joint Secretary Vijoo Krishnan told DH, “police unleash brute force against peaceful protests. Rioting has a negative connotation and farmers are now branded as rioters. But one has to understand that they hit the streets due to unresponsive governments.”

He said these figures do not reflect the actual number of protests because in many instances, police do not register cases as it would be embarrassing for the governments. “They were more number of protests,” Krishnan said adding a large number of protests were held in bigger states like Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand among others.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 4, 2017)

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