Desperate Indian farmers march on parliament

Indian farmers take part in a march organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) organization and Communist Party of India (Marxist) alongwith other leftist groups in New Delhi on November 29, 2018, as they call for pro-farmer legislation in the Indian parliament. (AFP)
Updated 01 December 2018
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Desperate Indian farmers march on parliament

  • Some 50,000 marched in the eastern city of Kolkata on Wednesday

New Delhi: Tens of thousands of farmers and agricultural workers marched toward the Indian parliament Friday demanding debt waivers and higher crop prices, putting pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of 2019 elections.
More than 300,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves in the last two decades mainly because of poor irrigation, failed crops and being unable to pay back loans.
Farmers from across the country flooded by train and bus into Delhi since Thursday to mass in the capital city’s Ramlila Grounds before marching to parliament.
Organizers said some 80,000 farmers and farm laborers were participating in the two-day agitation that will culminate with a petition to the Indian president after the march was stopped half-a-mile ahead of the parliament house.
Police erected hundreds of steel barricades to stop the marching crowds and kept water cannon on stand-by in case of any disorder.
The gathering was one of the biggest to hit the Indian capital since 2012 protests over the gang rape of a student.
Participants marched through central Delhi chanting slogans and holding placards emblazoned with “Down With Modi Government” and “Long Live Farmer Unity” as thousands of riot and armed policemen stood guard.
“The farmer crisis has got twice as bad in the last five years,” Sadhu Singh, a farmer from northern Punjab state known as India’s rice bowl, told AFP.
“We are losing money on every grain of rice we produce,” he said.
Some 200 farmer groups backed by left-leaning political parties have set three main demands for the government, including a nationwide waiver of farm loans, better prices for their produce and a special parliament session to discuss their plight.
The mass rally is the latest bid by farmer groups to put pressure on the Modi government ahead of the 2019 national elections.
The right-wing nationalist leader has promised to double their income by 2022 but farmers say nothing has changed for them.
The issue has also become a political flashpoint as India prepares for the elections expected next April or May, with Modi’s political rivals backing the farmers, a key voter base.
“The farmers are not asking for a free gift, they’re asking for what is due to them,” Rahul Gandhi, Modi’s main rival from the opposition Congress party, told the gathering.
The rally saw dozens of opposition leaders launching scathing attack on the Modi government over the agrarian crisis.
Opposition parties have accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of being pro-rich and anti-farmer.
The right-wing nationalist party has rebutted these claims.

Farmers’ distress has been a cause for worry for several decades, but the crisis has come to a head in recent months, with farmers spilling on to streets across the country.
Thousands of farmers crippled Mumbai — capital of Maharashtra state — in March. The western state witnessed some 639 farmer suicides in the first three months of 2018, according to government.
Some 50,000 marched in the eastern city of Kolkata on Wednesday.
Nearly 55 percent of India’s 1.25 billion population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. The sector accounts for around 15 percent of India’s economic output.
India is the global leader in cotton production followed by wheat, rice and sugar.
Each year millions of small farmers suffer due to scant irrigation facilities that reduce the yield and lead farmers into a deadly cycle of debt and suicides.
India lacks a robust irrigation infrastructure and most of the country’s farmland relies on annual monsoon rains. Excessive rains or floods too prove devastating.
Labo Banigo from eastern Odisha state said he is under huge debts after his crops failed due to back-to-back bad monsoons.
“My farm is a wasteland. There is hardly 10 percent produce,” Banigo told AFP.
“Modi promised to double our income but we can’t even feed ourselves.”


Sixteen states sue Trump over border wall emergency

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, right, accompanied by Gov. Gavin Newsom, said California will probably sue President Donald Trump over his emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP)
Updated 13 min 54 sec ago
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Sixteen states sue Trump over border wall emergency

  • The complaint added that the Department of Homeland Security had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to evaluate the environmental impact of the wall in California and New Mexico

SAN FRANCISCO: Sixteen US states sued President Donald Trump’s administration Monday over his decision to declare a national emergency to fund a wall on the southern border with Mexico, saying the move violated the constitution.
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in California, said the president’s order was contrary to the Presentment Clause that outlines legislative procedures and the Appropriations Clause, which defines Congress as the final arbiter of public funds.
The move had been previously announced by Xavier Becerra the attorney general of California who said his state and others had legal standing because they risked losing moneys intended for military projects, disaster assistance and other purposes.
Several Republican senators have decried the emergency declaration, saying it establishes a dangerous precedent and amounts to executive overreach.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia are party to the complaint seeking an injunction.
“Use of those additional federal funds for the construction of a border wall is contrary to Congress’s intent in violation of the US Constitution, including the Presentment Clause and Appropriations Clause,” the complaint said.
It added that Trump had “veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making.”
“Congress has repeatedly rebuffed the president’s insistence to fund a border wall, recently resulting in a record 35-day partial government shutdown over the border wall dispute,” the document read.
“After the government reopened, Congress approved, and the president signed into law, a $1.375 billion appropriation for fencing along the southern border, but Congress made clear that funding could not be used to build President Trump’s proposed border wall.”
The complaint added that the Department of Homeland Security had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to evaluate the environmental impact of the wall in California and New Mexico.
Friday’s declaration enables the president to divert funds from the Pentagon’s military construction budget and other sources.