Thousands of workers and farmers came together from various states across the country at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on April 5 for the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh rally in protest against the Union government’s alleged apathy towards them.

The rally was held under the aegis of leftwing trade bodies, the Centre of Trade Unions (CITU), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU).

Labourers and farmers are protesting against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government’s alleged disregard for basic needs and the lack of solutions for deep livelihood issues.

From what looked like a sea of red, with thousands holding the CPI(M) flag, many spoke about the issues pertaining to their state and how the ruling party has ignored their pleas.

Ankush, who had come from Maharashtra’s Amravati to be part of the rally said, “We have come here to speak out against the anti-farmers and anti-workers policies of the BJP government. Laws pertaining to the rights of the labour community have been broken and an anti-labour bill is being forced upon the people here.”

He said that in Maharashtra farmers are bearing the brunt of bad policies. “The production of crops, MSP, is pretty important and that has been ignored by the government,” he added.

Ankush said that they have come to protest and demand the rights given by the Constitution. Shyam Shinde, who had also hailed from Maharashtra said that he comes from a place where farmers have died by suicide in maximum numbers.

“The purpose of this rally is simply because there is no price to crops like kapas (cotton), soya bean and chana (pulses). The MSP that is currently imposed on farmers doesn't get a price and we are not getting the premium that we should get. This is the reason why farmers of Maharashtra and the country are in trouble,” he added.

Meanwhile, Asha, who is the leader of AIKS from Kerala, said that the current government has only focussed on religious issues rather than development. “In Kerala, the government gives free land, free houses, free education and free health among other things. But that is not the case in other states, however the new labour policies have been established to crush those same liberties, which is why we have come here to protest,” she said.

Labour leaders and activists joined hands at the rally and demanded from the government policies that allow access to education, healthcare, and a dignified life for them and their children.

In a joint statement it has also focussed on how the lives of farmers and agricultural workers have been affected by what the CPI(M) called “the corporate communal nexus.”

Speaking to The Citizen, Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) President Aishe Ghosh said that privatisation is being pushed into every sector, which is destroying education and the future of workers and farmers’ children.

“Education is being destroyed and if privatisation is pushed into education, then the children of these same farmers and workers won’t be able to study. And it is important that we stand against this privatisation supportive and corrupt government,” she said.

She said that the key issues that are being addressed here are Minimum Support Price (MSP), imposition of anti-farmers and workers laws, among other things. “As student organisations, we have come here in support for the workers and farmers because we believe that if at this time in our country workers and farmers are not safe then our country is not safe,” she said.

Workers from BSNL, India’s leading telecom company were also part of the protest demanding pending pensions and pay. Rajeev, who had come from Pune to be a part of this protest and is working with BSN said, “We are around 250 people who have come here from Pune to be a part of this rally. We are protesting because they are not giving us our pensions or pay. They are giving everything to Adani and Ambani and so we have come together to protest against that.”

The protesters said that it is time the government wakes up and pays heed to their demands. "If we do not stand up now, it is going to be too late. This government needs to understand that workers and farmers are the backbone of this country," Ghosh added.

Workers and farmers from Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka, Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Gujarat, participated in the rally.

Meanwhile, the CITU, AIKS, AIAWU, in a press statement, said “enthused by the success of the yearlong farmers' struggle and of the many recent victories against anti-people policies, people had made their way to Delhi from far and wide.

The rally was the culmination of a six-month long campaign in urban and rural districts of the country to mobilise people. Leaders who spoke from the stage warned the government that the rally was an indication of the increasing anger of the working people of this country against the disregard of their basic needs while showering benefits on the big corporations.

“The deliberate destruction of wealth, selling large public sector establishments developed over decades at throwaway prices to private owners, depriving workers and peasants of their basic rights, inviting foreign capital to capture Indian agriculture and dairy sectors, indulging corrupt money swindlers in looting peoples’ hard-earned money, all this is being increasingly promoted by the present Govt,” it stated.

Farmers in different parts of the country are protesting against what they term the government’s anti-farmer policies. On Monday, weather-hit farmers from different villages of Rohtak district staged a protest at the local mini-secretariat. Maintaining that the compensation of Rs 15,000 per acre announced by the Haryana Government was inadequate in view of their huge losses, the agitated farmers sought a relief of Rs 50,000 per acre for their damaged crops.

Untimely rains, hailstorms and high-velocity winds damaged wheat and other crops in many areas of Punjab. The state government announced a 25 per cent hike in compensation for crop loss. Crops have been damaged in inclement weather and farmers should be given at least Rs 50,000 per acre as compensation for 100 percent crop loss, Pandher said.

On Sunday, farmers’ group Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) held a rail roko protest at the Batala railway station in Punjab's Gurdaspur over several demands, including fair compensation to farmers for land acquired for road projects and crop loss due to inclement weather. Farmers put up tents at the railway station and squatted on the rail tracks.