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Women farmers brave winter chills, demand loan waiver at Kisan rally

twitter-logoPTI | November 29, 2018 | Updated 21:33 IST

New Delhi, Nov 29 (PTI) Mounting bank loans, crop failure, lack of avenues to pay off debts and large dependent families form the common thread tying together the numerous women farmers who hit the streets Thursday. Hoping to make themselves heard in the power centre of the nation, thousands of farmers, who had converged here from across the country, began a two-day protest, backed by the Left, to press their demands including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce. Raising the banner of protest among them are women farmers who see themselves as worse than their male counterparts. Rita Messi, 45, travelled around 200 km from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh to the national capital with a hope of sustaining her livelihood as a farmer and making her demand heard at the Kisan rally. Rita, who supports 11 family members as a sugarcane farmer, has struggled over the years due to crop failure and her inability to pay off the debts. "I took big risks by taking loans from banks with the hope of doing well. But a drought like situation in the first year, flood in second year and lately, storms have destroyed all my hopes. Now I am unable to repay my loans," she said. At the Kisan rally, Rita has been huddled with others from her village who all hope that the establishment will finally wake up to the agrarian distress. She said she took a loan of Rs 5.5 lakh from Rudrapur branch of Allahabad Bank for sugar cane cultivation, Rs 3.5 lakh from Bhumi Vikas Bank and another loan of Rs 3.5 lakh from Zila Sahkari Bank for maize farming. "Now the people from the bank come to my house, serve notices for loan repayment. Sometimes they even call me to their office. The government should waive off all farm loans. "We are facing loss after loss in our farming. It is not only in case of sugar cane cultivation, but in paddy and maize cultivation as well. If the government does not do something, I will have no option but to take the extreme step," Rita said. Sugar cane farming, a traditional agricultural practice of several families in Rampur district, has taken a hit in recent years, the farmer said. Geeta Rani, a farmer from Hasan district of Karnataka, said the southern state had witnessed agricultural failure for two continuous years. "Two continuous years of agricultural failure in our state has added to our woes. We have no support. Big farmers always have government blessings. The government should also think about people like us," she said. Geeta, who owns only four bigha land on which she cultivates coconut and rears ducks, was accompanied by her 80-year-old mother Saroja Bai. She said it was becoming difficult for people like her to survive in rural areas as prices of essential commodities have been skyrocketing in recent times. "There is no proper irrigation facilities for agriculture. We have no support of banks. We have heard of many government schemes, but nothing has reached us," Saroja said. Around 140 women, under the banner of Karnataka Raja Sagar (KRS), assembled for the protest in the national capital. The farmers, who converged at Ramlila Ground here and will march to Parliament Street on Friday, have come from different corners of the country, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. PTI DMB ASG SRY

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