Three weeks after Parliament passed three controversial farm bills, protests against the legislations continue to be staged in Punjab and Haryana. When two of the legislations were tabled during a chaotic session in Parliament on September 20, some Opposition MPs claimed that they would prove to be the “death warrant” for the agricultural sector.
Even as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party dismissed these concerns, many farmers in Punjab and Haryana are unconvinced. They have adopted a variety of strategies – some time-tested, others more novel – to express their misgivings.
The legislations loosen regulations on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural produce. They allow farmers to sell to private players outside of the mandis or markets notified by Agricultural Produce Market Committees set up by state government. These committees aim to ensure that large retailers do not exploit farmers and regulate payments to them.
The new laws also allow contract farming through deals with private sector companies.
But farmers have criticised the legisations for allowing corporations to enter the agricultural sector. They are also concerned that this will mark the end of the minimum support price offered by the government on some commodities.
In Haryana, the ire of the farmers has been directed towards Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, the founder of the Jannayak Janta Party that rules the state in alliance with the BJP. During the Haryana Assembly elections in 2019, Chautala sought votes from the rural part of the state claiming to support farmers’ rights. But once the farm laws were passed in the Parliament, Chautala supported them, The Indian Express reported.
Here are three tactics the farmers have adopted.
1 Gheraoing facilities owned by corporations
As part of its protests against the farm laws, the Bharatiya Kisan Union in Punjab have beenbesieging facilities run by corporations that run grain storage plants, toll plazas operated by them and power plants, reported The Tribune on September 28.
Riding on tractors, several farmers protested outside the house of former minister in the state government and BJP leader Manoranjan Kalia in Jalandhar, reported The Tribune on October 1. From there, the protest went to North West Delhi MP Hans Raj Hans’ home situated in the area.
On the same day, farmers from Kirti Kisan Union, Azaad Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Kisan Sangharsh Committee and Bharatiya Kisan Union protested outside the house of BJP Rajya Sabha MP Shwait Malik in Amritsar, according to The Tribune.
On October 4, farmers in Punjab protested outside fuel stations run by Reliance Petroleum and Essar Group in Sangur district’s villages such as Kheri, Malerkotla, Lehra, Bhawanigarh, Sunam, Benra, Toor Banjara and Katron, and Bhotna, Dhaula, Mana Pindi and Sanghera villages of Barnala district, reported the Hindustan Times.
“We have been holding protests against the corporate houses whose owners are friends of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Roop Singh, a member the Bharatiya Kisan Union, was quoted as saying in the report. “The big companies want to snatch our land. When these people will face losses, they will complain with Modi who will know about our protests.”
In Haryana, protestors shouted slogans at Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala while he was in Cheeka, a town in Kaithal district to inaugurate a project on September 29, Jagran reported. Some farmers said that Chautala had promised them their rights before he won political power. But he now supported the Centre’s new laws, the report stated.
On Tuesday, farmers in the state decided to stage a gherao or blockade outside Dushyant Chautala and Cabinet Minister Ranjit Chautala’s houses in Sirsa.
Meanwhile, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee announced a gherao of the national capital on November 26 and 27 to protest against the farm laws.
2 Blocking roads and railways
In Haryana, the Bharatiya Kisan Union called for farmers to block roads to protest against the laws. Farmers staged sit-ins in Ambala, Kurukshetra and Yamunanagar on September 25, The Times of India reported.
In Ambala’s Dinarpur village, they blocked National Highway 444A that runs through the entire state, and burnt effigies and hoardings of BJP and Jannayak Janta Party leaders in Dau Majra village in Kurukshetra, the report stated. In Yamunanagar, farmers who support the Bharatiya Kisan Union sat on the Ambala-Saharanpur railway tracks in Sudhal and Mehrampur villages, according to the report.
In Punjab, 31 farmers groups announced an indefinite “rail roko” or a railway blockade in the state from October 1, reported The Indian Express.
Farmers blocked the railway tracks in Sangrur, Sunam and Barnala districts in the state on October 4.
However, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh urged farmers to ease the blockade on railways on October 5, The New Indian Express reported. Singh said that the blockade had prevented goods trains carrying coal from entering the state. The coal, he said, was essential to run the state’s electricity plants and that they were left with supply that could last upto five to six days.
However, the blockade however continued as farmers from the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee blocked railway tracks in Amritsar on October 6.
3 Waving black flags
Once the laws were enacted, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Haryana unit directed all its elected representatives to visit their constituencies to speak to farmers about the new provisions. However, farmers began to wave black flags at their elected representatives to register their dissatisfaction.
On September 27, farmers waved black flags to Haryana’s Agricultural Minister JP Dalal when he was in Mundlana village in Sonipat, The Tribune reported.
On October 1, Bharatiya Kisan Union-affiliated farmers showed black flags to Kurukshetra MP Nayak Singh Saini and former minister in the Haryana state government Karan Dev Kamboj while the leaders were on their way to address a public meeting about the farm laws in Radaur, a town in Yamunanagar district, reported Hindustan Times.
The next day, Sunita Duggal, the MP of Sirsa, and was shown black flags by farmers when she visited Odhan village in her constituency, the Hindustan Times reported. However, Duggal dismissed the protest claiming that the farmers who showed her black flags were Congress workers, the report stated.