Developmental economist Madhura Swaminathan on Tuesday said that India’s farmers cannot be treated as criminals, referring to the Haryana government’s handling of the farmers’ protest.

Madhura Swaminathan, the daughter of late agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan, made the comments at an event organised by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa to celebrate the posthumous conferment of India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, to her father.

“The farmers of Punjab today, are marching to Delhi,” Madhura Swaminathan said while addressing the event virtually. “I believe, according to the newspaper reports, there are jails being prepared for them in Haryana, there are barricades, there are all kinds of things being done to prevent them. These are farmers. They are not criminals.

Madhura Swaminathan added: “I request all of you, the leading scientists of India, [we] have to talk to our annadatas [food providers] – we cannot treat them as criminals. We have to find solutions. This is my request, I think if we have to continue and honour MS Swaminathan, we have to take the farmers with us in whatever strategy that we are planning for the future.”

In a social media post late on Tuesday, Madhura Swaminathan shared a statement issued by MS Swaminathan in November 2021 expressing happiness about the Union government having repealed its three controversial farm laws. MS Swaminathan, considered the architect of India’s Green Revolution, died in September at the age of 98.

On Tuesday, farmers’ groups, led by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, began their march to Delhi on Tuesday after a meeting with the Union ministers about their demands was inconclusive.

The farmers are pressing for a law guaranteeing a minimum support price for agricultural commodities and the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission Report’s wider recommendations on farming in India. A minimum support price is the rate at which the government buys farm produce.

In 2004, the Centre had constituted a commission led by MS Swaminathan to help address problems faced by farmers. The commission had recommended that the minimum support price on crops should be raised to at least 50% above the weighted average cost of production incurred by farmers.

Some of their other demands include a pension scheme for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waivers, reinstatement of the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, India’s withdrawal from the World Trade Organization and compensation for families of farmers who died during the previous farmers’ protests in 2020-’21.

To stop the farmers from moving into the national capital, the authorities in Delhi on Monday fortified the city’s borders at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur with multilayered barricades using concertina wires, nails, concrete blocks and shipping containers. The volume of police and paramilitary personnel was also increased.

On Tuesday, the Haryana Police fired tear gas using drones at the farmers at the Shambhu border – Haryana’s inter-state border with Punjab – as agitators attempted to break barricades. At least four people sustained injuries due to the firing of tear gas, according to reports.

The Haryana government has set up seven detention centres in Jhajjar.

Also read: