Union Minister of State for Food and Public Distribution Ashwini Kumar Choubey announced on Saturday said that paddy and millet procurement in Haryana and Punjab will start from Sunday, NDTV reported.

Earlier in the day, massive protests erupted outside the homes of leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Jannayak Janata Party in Haryana. The police used water cannons and batons to disperse protestors.

Farmers in Haryana and Punjab had raised objections to the Centre’s decision to postpone procurement of paddy in both the states from September 25 to October 11. The government cited higher moisture content due to rainfall as reason to delay purchase of paddy.

Thousands of farmers gathered outside Khattar’s home in Karnal on Saturday morning. The farmers threatened to continue protest around the chief minister’s home “indefinitely” until the government agencies start procuring paddy from the markets in the state.

After this, Khattar and his deputy Dushyant Chautala reached New Delhi to find a solution. “Farmers will not have to face any problem in paddy procurement,” Khattar said after a meeting in the national capital, according to The Indian Express.

Videos from outside Khattar’s home showed the farmers standing atop police barricades and shouting slogans against the three new agricultural laws passed in September 2020. The police have been deployed in large numbers in riot gear outside Khattar’s home.

Protests also erupted outside Jannayak Janata Party MLA Ramkaran Kala’s home in Kurukshetra district, state Education Minister Kanwar Pal Gujjar’s home in Yamunanagar district and BJP MLA Aseem Goel’s home in Ambala city, according to The Tribune.

At Chandimandir toll plaza in Panchkula district, police baton-charged the farmers when they were going to protest outside BJP MLA Gian Chand Gupta’s home.

The protests were called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of the farmers’ union, reported The Tribune.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union, which is a part of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, said that the government has postponed procurement as it wants the farmers to sell paddy to private players at a cheap price.

“Fearing this trend in coming days, the farmers have been staging dharnas on Delhi borders as the government wants to eliminate the mandi system and also to promote private players,” said Jagdeep Singh Aulakh, state core committee member of the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s (Charuni).

On Friday too, the police had used water cannons to disperse farmers who were marching towards a venue where Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala was attending an event in Jhajjar district.

As the farmers attempted to push through barricades and a security cordon, police had used the water cannons. One of the protestors had said that the police arrested some of them and that they had used sewer water in the water cannons.

Congress criticises Khattar

Meanwhile, Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala on Friday said that the government’s delay in procuring paddy will hurt the farmers, the Hindustan Times reported.

“It [the Centre] is tormenting the farmers by announcing a new date every other week,” he said. “Consequently, about 20 lakh quintal paddy is lying under the open skies in Haryana mandis.”

He added that the Modi government’s decision was a “clear conspiracy” to end paddy procurement at Minimum Support Price. It is the rate at which the government buys farm produce, and is based on a calculation of at least one and a half times the cost of production incurred by farmers.

Guaranteeing the Minimum Support Price as a legal provision is one of the demands of the farmers protesting against three new agriculture laws.

While several Union ministers, and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have reiterated that Minimum Support Price will not be done away with under the new laws, the Centre has so far conceded to only give a written assurance, while the farmers are demanding it to be included as a clause in the law.

The Former Finance Minister of Haryana, Sampat Singh, said that the Centre aimed at procuring 60 lakh tonne of paddy from farmers.

He added that the Central and state government’s policies and delay in procuring paddy are making the farmers “miserable”. He warned that chaos could ensue at mandis if the crops are not brought immediately.

Farm laws protest

The three contentious farm laws were passed by the government in 2020, which sparked off protests by farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh that have continued to rage ever since.

The BJP-run central government has claimed the new laws are aimed at making farming more profitable, but the farmers argue that they will bring about corporate dominance of the sector.

The farmers also claim that once the prevailing authority of the state marketing boards – that provide a shield against exploitation – collapses, private entities will dictate the price of their produce.

In January, nearly two months into the farmer protests, the Supreme Court had suspended implementation of the farm laws.