Agencies: Amid threats by farmers to intensify protests after five were shot dead in firing on Tuesday in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur, the government today suspended two top district officials. State Home Minister Bhupendra Singh, according to ANI, has confirmed that deaths were due to police firing, the allegation he had rejected earlier. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had appealed to farmers to end the violence that has marked the strike they began on June 1, demanding debt relief and better prices for their produce. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is on his way to the violence-hit area and is travelling by road but the administration says it will not allow him to enter the district.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this big story:
- Other opposition leaders, including JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav, are also heading for Mandsaur, with the state’s ruling BJP accusing them of politicising the protests.
- The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government is believed to be considering waiving interest on farm loans, which could benefit over six lakh farmers at a cost of around Rs. 2,000 crore to the taxpayer.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday held a meeting of top officials and ministers to discuss the crisis; over 1,000 paramilitary troops have been sent to Madhya Pradesh from the centre.
- Chief Minister Chouhan took to Twitter on Wednesday to make emotional appeal to farmers to end the violence that has marked the strike they began on June 1, demanding debt relief and better prices for their produce. Mr Chouhan said that he has been a farmer and understands their problems.
- Rahul Gandhi this morning left for Mandsaur, about 325 km from state capital Bhopal, to meet the families of the farmers who, the Congress says, were murdered in cold blood for demanding a loan waiver and better price for their crops.
- Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has accused Mr Gandhi of visiting Mandsaur in the volatile situation, only because “he is publicity hungry”.
- Mandsaur is tense and a round-the-clock curfew is in force. Mobile internet services have been cut off and thousands of police in riot gear are posted after clashes on Tuesday in which five farmers were shot dead.
- Thousands of farmers in the drought-ravaged western Madhya Pradesh have been protesting for over a week demanding that authorities increase the minimum price for their crops and waive their bank loans. Madhya Pradesh is one of several states that have suffered disappointing rains and crop failures in recent years.
- More than 1,600 farmers killed themselves in the state in 2016, according to official figures. Between 2011 and 2015, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 6076 farmers had committed suicide in the state.
- Farmers in neighbouring Maharashtra state have held similar protests and have stopped supplies to urban areas, leading to a spike in the prices of vegetables and dairy products including in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai. The protests pose a challenge to the Modi government, which has promised to double farm income in the next two years.