New Delhi: With less than two weeks to go for the winter session of Parliament, farmers from across India reached Delhi on Thursday demanding a special session on debt waiver and better crop prices.

The protest, the largest this year, was organized by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), and comes in the middle of crucial elections in five states, where rural distress has been a major poll issue.

The protesting farmers will spend the night at Delhi’s Ram Leela Maidan, and are expected to march to Parliament on Friday morning. AIKSCC is a coalition of over 200 farmers’ unions from across India.

“If the government can call a midnight session of Parliament to pass the goods and services tax bill, why can’t it call a special session to discuss farmers’ issues," asked Raju Shetty, member of Parliament, and leader of Swabhimani Shetkari Sangha, a farmers’ organization in Maharashtra. “Farmers have realized that their power lies in numbers. So, today, a farmer from Maharashtra and Telangana have come together to make the same demand. They may not understand each other’s language, but they share each other’s pain."

It wasn’t clear if Delhi Police will allow the protesting farmers to march to Parliament Street till press time. In early October, a standoff had led to clashes between the police and farmers as they tried to enter Delhi with a similar set of demands.

On Thursday morning, protesters from the southern states had gathered at a Gurudwara in east Delhi. Among them were Srikanth, 18, and Narsimmulu, 17, from Siddipet in Telangana. Their fathers had committed suicide, burdened by bank loans. Both are training for a job in the Indian Army. “There is no future in farming... we have come to demand that our loans be waived," Srikanth said, holding the photo of his deceased father. Nanhe Lal, a farmer from Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit, said the government was not fulfilling the promises it had made. “They announced a loan waiver, but not a paisa of my debt was settled."

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