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Posted at: Mar 13, 2018, 12:54 AM; last updated: Mar 13, 2018, 12:54 AM (IST)

More of Bharat joins in

The wages of accumulated rural distress
More of Bharat joins in

The huge phalanx of protesting farmers has won over Mumbaikars with their self-discipline and compassion. Incredulous urbanites have watched a spectacle of exemplary fortitude as the salt of the earth — the tribal, the landless and the marginal farmer — braved the scorching sun and roofless nights as they silently walked hundreds of kilometres from their farmsteads to the state’s political and financial capital to seek their due. Social media has posted amazing pictures of a sea of farmers walking past populated areas at the break of dawn so as not to inconvenience children during exam time. 

CM Fadnavis was “technically” correct but  came off looking insensitive and extremely condescending when he said the sea of agitating rural India was “technically” not farmers. Many of the feet are bare, calloused and bruised. This was not merely the tractor-crowd whose sole focus is personal aggrandisement in the form of debt waivers and high crop purchase prices. These sons of the soil seek not just immediate respite from farm distress, but also devolution of the rights-based promises made to rural India by successive ruling arrangements, especially the Forests Act and land rights to the tiller. Another principal communitarian demand relates to the apprehensions triggered by river interlinking projects. 

Rural India is not asking for the unattainable. It simply seeks an assurance against being left out or being made the victims of the New Delhi’s model of vikas. The massive “Long March” is not the only manifestation of rural India’s resentment over the short shrift given to its fears, suspicions and aspirations. From Tamil Nadu to Madhya Pradesh, people in villages are up in arms against a non-existent public delivery system and denial of a rights-based existence. The discipline displayed by the marchers exemplifies the legendary forbearance of the Indian peasantry. But it is being tested. Successive protests are gathering more and more adherents; the previous edition pales in comparison to the numbers who participated in the current march. The governments at the Centre and the states can ignore these storm clouds only at their peril.

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