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Loan waiver: Distressed farmers pin hopes on ‘Rahul Bhaiya’

Sitting outside his one room shack in Tewa village, Kaushambi, Pradeep Kumar stares helplessly into the darkness. The night is about to set in but there is no electricity “It’s been three days and there is no electricity. It impacts my field as the tubewell can’t be operated and diesel is very expensive. The compensation for drought-affected farmers hasn’t been distributed in my villages by the state authorities. Don't know how to repay my loan?” lamented Kumar.

Chunudevi, a native of Aktihiya village in Deoria, said, “Good roads, uninterrupted electricity and monetary relief from the government are just distant dreams. Corrupt officials don’t help us. We have to fend for ourselves.”

Yusuf Karim, a villager from Mirzapur, said, “Government had announced that we’ll get monetary relief for our damaged crop but the compensation hasn’t reached us. I have to repay Rs 60,000 loan. I am planning to leave for Lucknow to get some menial job to repay the loan.”

It seems the plight of farmers across Uttar Pradesh is almost same. Forgotten, left to fend for food and basic amenities on their own by the state, these farmers are showing up in droves on the roads from where the convoy of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi passes off.

This year, the Centre had cleared financial assistance to the tune of Rs 13,500 crore to drought-hit states. However, the delay in release of compensation amount led to a major agrarian crisis as farmers in Uttar Pradesh are yet to get the meagre Rs 2,700 per acre they were assured.

However, instead of compensation amount, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi reached out to them with the promise of loan waiver. This promise is being well received by the farmers, who ask their ‘Rahul Bhaiya’ to take up the cause of distressed farmers and labourers in Delhi’s Durbar. 

Criss-crossing the narrow broken roads, the black coloured bus is stopped impromptu at various meeting points and Gandhi got down to meet the people, who eagerly narrated their plight. The locals, including youngsters, handed him over the papers on which their complaints are scribed. “Despite having graduated, I am not able to get a job. I am pinning my hopes on Rahul Bhaiya, if he can help us,” said Bhartendu Yadav, a resident of Chilla village in Mizapur.  The scenes, which are being witnessed on the roads of Uttar Pradesh from where Gandhi's Kisan Yatra passes, gave an indication that in the battleground of UP elections where caste and religions are major factors, Congress has successfully introduced another one ‘Class’. Cutting across caste and religion, people from down-trodden classes especially farmers, youngsters are pouring in huge number at the Khat Sabhas.   

The 46-year-old Amethi MP too doesn’t disappoint them. He reiterates at each meeting points and Khat Sabhas only three things: Farm loan waiver, lower electricity bill and increased MSP.

"We will complete the yatra in Delhi and put pressure on PM Modi to waive off farm loan. If the loan of 15-20 'rich' corporates can be waived then why not of 'poor' farmers?" reiterates Gandhi.

Touring UP since September 6, Gandhi has been interacting with farmers, labourers, women, youth, shopkeepers and small traders during his Kisan Yatra at length.  “Modi ji will have to hear the voice of farmers. We will put enough pressure on him to get the farm loan waived,” he said in his Khat Sabha in Mirzapur.   

While if the scene one of act one is being enacted in the fields and streets of Uttar Pradesh by Congress leaders led by their vice-president, the preparations are already on in Delhi to execute scene two of this ‘strategic’ act.   

The party plans a major show of strength in Delhi where this yatra will culminate in first week of October.  

The senior party leaders point that the agenda will not be confined to 2017 UP election, battle but will become a major arsenal for 2019 Lok Sabha poll war. The Congress plans to raise this matter in upcoming Winter Session of the Parliament and make similar noises on farmers' rights in other parts of the country.

“The unbearable burden of debt has forced many farmers to commit suicide. Farmers across the country are suffering. The entire class from different castes and religious denominations are asking for relief. We'll raise this issue in Parliament and continue to fight it till government agrees to farm loan waiver,” said Congress MP PL Punia, who too is touring Western UP in another bus yatra headed by UPCC committee chief Raj Babbar.   

The idea of Kisan yatra has also caught fancy of other players in the UP poll fray. The ruling regime in the state, Samajvadi Party has also announced a rath yatra called 'Shree Mulayam Sandesh' wherein party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav will lead this yatra. Though the political parties are going all out to woo voters, Prabhati devi, a Tehra Jamalpur village near Allahabad sums up what people want. “Political parties make tall promises, but very few deliver. We will vote for the one who brings in development.”
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