Around 5,000 farmers from across Karnataka staged protests on Monday seeking a loan waiver, higher price for sugarcane and relief aid for losses incurred due to drought in 17 districts.
Hundreds of farmers reached the city in buses, trains, trucks, and tractors from 20 of the 30 districts including Ramanagara, Mandya, Mysuru, Kodagu, Kolar, Gadag, Tumukuru, Shivamogga, Hassan, Haveri, Hubballi, Belagavi, and Bagalkot as their demands have remained pending months after the Janata Dal-Secular-Congress coalition came into power.
"Farmers from all over the state have come to force the state government meet our demands on loan waiver, higher price for sugarcane and compensation for Kharif crop loss due to drought this year," Karnataka State Farmers Association President Chamaraj Patil told reporters.
"Though Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy announced farm loan waiver in June, the banks have not written off a rupee even after five months. Except for making announcements and giving assurances, nothing has happened. We are also unable to take fresh credit as old loans have not been waived off yet," Patil added.
Police blocked hundreds of agitators from marching towards the state Secretariat from Freedom Park near the main railway station and the city-cum-district bus stand as prohibitory orders were issued in the VIP area.
"We have urged the police to allow at least our representatives to meet Kumaraswamy for submitting a memorandum and discussing our problems," said Patil.
Security has been stepped up in the city with about 1,000 police personnel deployed in the central business district to ensure that the agitation was peaceful.
The main demands also include payment of Rs 1,500 crore dues from state-run and private sugar mills for fiscal 2017-18; Rs 3,000 per tonne higher minimum support price (MSP) for sugarcane from Rs 2,500 per tonne fixed last year; fresh loans from cooperative and state-run banks for the rabi crop, supply of seeds and fertilisers.
"Glut in production, higher inventory of unsold stock and imports have reduced the retail price of sugar to Rs 30 per kg even as input costs have doubled," Patil added.
Karnataka is the third largest sugarcane producer after Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which had harvested 32 million tonnes in 2017-18.
The drought has affected 15-lakh hectares of agricultural and horticultural crops in 17 districts across the state, with an estimated loss of Rs 8,000 crore.