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Farmers raise voice

New Delhi, Aug. 10: Malda's Keshav Chandra Barman continues to grow potatoes despite his father ending his life four years ago over poor prices for his crop.

"He could not repay Rs 50,000 he had taken at 120 per cent interest from a moneylender. We haven't been able to get a Kisan Credit Card even after his death. Now I have a debt of Rs 50,000 from the same moneylender as my potato crop fetched less than Rs 300 per quintal (Rs 3 per kg)," Keshav said, speaking at a farmers' rally at Jantar Mantar organised by the CPM-backed All India Kisan Sabha.

The 26-year-old from Bengal was among some 500 farmers from across the country, including the relatives of 60 who had committed suicide in the past few years. Their demands included a minimum support price (MSP) of at least 50 per cent over cost, cuts in fertiliser and pesticide prices and farm loan waivers.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury attended the protest. "Suicides won't fetch us anything. Only a united struggle by peasants and our struggle in Parliament can make this deaf government hear our demands," Yechury said, his call coming against the backdrop of claims the Narendra Modi government had not done enough to ease farm distress.

Also at the protest was Megha, the daughter of Rajasthan farmer Gajendra Singh who died at an AAP rally held in April this year to highlight farm woes. "We have received no money (promised financial aid) yet," said the teen, standing yards from the neem tree where her father was found hanging. Her grandfather Banne Singh added: "We elected Modiji in the hope that our lives would be stable."

Ram Narayan Koraria, the Kisan Sabha general secretary in Madhya Pradesh, said the problems could be solved only if the demands were met. Journalist P. Sainath, who campaigns on farmers' issues, said MSPs hadn't kept pace with costs and alleged that farm loans were diverted to other purposes.

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