Hundreds of farmers from Punjab started gathering on the Delhi’s border along Haryana on November 25 despite restrictions on their scheduled movement towards the Capital for the ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest against the three farm laws on November 26 and 27.
The BJP-ruled Haryana has imposed Section 144 of the CrPC to prevent assembly of protesters. The Delhi police has said that it has not allowed the protesters to gather in the city. Police have already taken nearly 100 farmer leaders from Punjab in ‘preventive custody’
The threat to block the access roads to Delhi
Farmers have threatened to block all access roads to Delhi and neighbouring states if they are not allowed to march. The farmer bodies said that they expect 1-1.5 lakh people to take part in the protest.
"We will peacefully block the routes to Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir," Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the farmer body Bharatiya Kisan Union said.
The protest calls by The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) — a body of more than 200 farmers’ organisations across the country — has support from nearly 500 farmer organisations.
Agitated over farm laws
Farmers of Punjab are opposed to the three recently-enacted farm laws by the Centre. They demand the repeal of the laws and replace them with another set of laws enacted after taking all stakeholders into confidence. They also demand a guarantee on the MSP front, as they feel the new laws may lead to the end of minimum support prices (MSP) procurement, a fear that the Centre has denied.
The farmers called the protest march despite Punjab assembly rejecting the laws by a unanimous resolution. The state also passed three farm amendment bills removing the state from the ambit of the central legislations. The farmers have welcomed the state bills, but said they will become laws only after President’s assent, which they think is unlikely.
Last week, the farmers lifted the 60-day blockade from train tracks and agreed to let all goods and passenger trains operate across in Punjab.
The three contentious Central bills -- the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were introduced and passed in the Parliament during the Monsoon session to replace the ordinances issued during the lockdown. President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent for the three bills on September 27.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the longest-standing allies of the BJP quit the NDA government after the disagreement with the Centre over the three laws.
End of MSP?
The Centre, however, asserts that the laws will transform Indian agriculture and attract private investment while liberating farmers by giving them the freedom to sell their produce anywhere in country.
The Union government on November 24 said it has invited Punjab farmer unions for second round of ministerial talks on December 3 to resolve differences over the new agriculture laws, according to a report in news agency PTI.
“We have called the representatives of over 30 farmer organisations for the second round of discussion on December 3 at Vigyan Bhawan at 11 am,“ Union food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey told PTI. The first round of talks was held on November 13, but it remained inconclusive.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has welcomed Centre's invited to farmers for talks
The food secretary said the new laws have no mention of MSP.
“Earlier laws too did not have any mention of MSP. Even the new agri-laws do not mention it. MSP is mentioned only in the National Food Security Act (NFSA) which has not been changed. Till Public Distribution System (PDS) is there, MSP will continue,” he said.