MANN KI BAAT

Protesting farmers resort to eating their own faeces to get the Indian government’s attention

Obsession
Modi's Moment
Quartz india
Obsession
Modi's Moment
Quartz india

A desperate group of Indian farmers has resorted to the unthinkable—consuming their own excreta.

After trying unsuccessfully for months to grab the Indian government’s attention towards their plight, some 10 of them in green loincloths took this extreme step in New Delhi on Monday (Sept. 11).

Natives of the drought-hit southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu (TN), they had earlier resorted to some bizarre forms of protest, including holding the skulls of fellow farmers who had killed themselves out of desperation.

The group is seeking loan waivers, revised drought packages, a fixed fair price for their produce, and a committee to handle the sharing of the waters of River Cauvery. They also want a Rs40,000 crore fund to address the drought in TN in 2016, the worst in over 140 years following the failure of the monsoon rains, which account for 70% of India’s rainfall.

“We collected the excreta in the morning (in plastic bags) and then ate it…By not giving us revised drought packages, compensation for crops ruined by the bad weather conditions and refusing loan waivers, the central government has forced us into a position of having to eat our own waste,” Ayyakannu, president of the National South Indian Rivers Linking Farmers’ Association, which has been protesting in the Indian capital, told the Hindustan Times newspaper.

This is the second time these farmers have resorted to protests in recent times.

Earlier this year, their campaign grabbed headlines as it involved eating live mice and snakes, holding mock funerals, and threatening to drink their own urine. They called off the protests in April after the Madras high court asked the TN government to waive off all agricultural loans.

However, following the state’s plea, the supreme court of India restricted the waiver to only those who owned less than five acres of land.

The protesters, though, wanted amnesty for all farmers and returned to New Delhi to protest.

They have next threatened to consume human flesh if their demands are not met. “We had been here for 41 days earlier, and now by Tuesday it will be the 59th day since we came back. So altogether, Tuesday will mark the 100th day of our protest, and we plan to march in the nude to the prime minister’s office then,” said Ayyakannu.

The past many years have been tough for Indian farmers due to changing weather patterns and a deep and lingering economic crisis in the hinterlands. In 2015 alone, some 12,602 farmers killed themselves, mostly due to financial reasons.

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