NEW DELHI: In one of the most macabre methods of protest Delhi’s Jantar Mantar has seen, Tamil Nadu farmers have been sitting with skulls of fellow tillers who allegedly committed suicide due to crop failure — two each day since last October. Their relentless, 14-day agitation finally got them an audience with the Union government on Tuesday.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met with a representative group of Tamil Nadu farmers led by Ayyannakannu, in the presence of Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, M Thambidurai. It was seen as the first sign of hope that maybe, if not all their demands of Rs 40,000 crore drought relief, loan waivers, a new Cauvery Management Board and river linking are met, some broader initiative would be taken to address their plight.
“To wipe away their tears, if not the entire loans,’’ as a source privy to the discussions said. About 12 lakh acres of farm land in the Cauvery belt have been affected in what is the worst drought in a century and a half. Indeed, the tangible contours of how the demands of the protesting TN farmers would be kept was not clear. But Jaitley did indicate that the Finance Ministry would be talking to the RBI to try and see what kind of relief measures can be given. It could be noted here that the nationalised banks have shown resistance towards a blanket waiver of farm loans.