The agitation saw the participation of 147 farmers when it started, which number swelled to 325 by the time it ended.
The Tamil Nadu farmers who held a 47-day long agitation in New Delhi demanding the waiver of their loans, returned to Chennai on Tuesday morning by train.
They had suspended their agitation following an assurance from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, who belongs to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
Among those who received them at the railway station was AIADMK spokesperson C R Saraswathi, DMK office-bearers as well as farmers association members, all armed with shawls and garlands, as is the norm in Tamil Nadu. Jayalalithaa’s niece Deepa’s husband Madhavan, who recently floated a political party, was a surprise presence.
The media was there in full strength as well, their numbers crowding the platform and even making it difficult for the farmers to come out of the train compartment. After all, it was an agitation that had caught the imagination of the public back home.
Through it all the farmers had held rats and snakes in their mouth, shaved half their head, stripped naked, whipped themselves, and finally even drank urine. While all this was good enough to get them media attention and public sympathy, it was not enough to get their demand fulfilled.
One farmer, hailing from Nagapattinam district, said he had borrowed Rs 6.5 lakh from Canara Bank to tend to his six acres of land, which he was unable to pay back because of the drought.
Asked where the farmers got rats and snakes in Delhi, the farmer said, “You know, like we have Narikuravas (a Scheduled Tribe) in Tamil Nadu, there are similar tribes in Delhi too. They would bring live rats and snakes, even killing them for us. They were living with us.”
Another farmer, from Tiruchirappalli, said he had 20 acres of land and had taken a Rs 40 lakh loan from a nationalised bank. “We get loans at 4% interest but even that we cannot repay as the rains failed and Karnataka did not give us sufficient water. Cannot blame them, for the rains failed there too.”
Asked about the state government writing off cooperative bank loans, the farmers said the loans were written off by the high court following a writ petition filed by their farmer-lawyer leader Ayyakannu, and the government had no role to play in it.
One of the farmers, who travelled back from Delhi dressed in a langot, said, “This is all I can afford because of the drought.”
The agitation saw the participation of 147 farmers when it started, which number swelled to 325 by the time it ended. It’s a huge number to get railway reservations during peak summer season. “The government got our seats reserved as they were very happy to see us go,” a farmer said with a smile.
Tuesday was a bandh in Tamil Nadu called by the to protest against the government’s handling of the drought. While public transport plied as usual, shops and commercial establishments downed their shutters.
Image: AIADMK spokesperson C R Saraswathi and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa's husband Madhavan, who recently launched a political party, pose with the farmers at Chennai's Central railway station on Tuesday morning. Photograph: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com.