The Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday extended the suspension of internet services in Punjab, in the jurisdiction of 20 police stations, till February 24, reported The Hindu.

This came a day before the fourth round of negotiations between protesting farmers’ unions and the Centre over farmers’ demands. The union leaders will meet Union ministers Arjun Munda, Piyush Goyal and Nityanand Rai for talks on Sunday.

The home ministry’s orders banning internet services in parts of Punjab cited the “interest of maintaining public safety and averting public emergency”. Connectivity will be impacted in the following police station limits: Shambhu, Julkan, Passian, Patran, Shatrana, Samana, Ghanour, Devigarh and Balbhera in Patiala district, Lalru in SAS Nagar, Sangat in Bathinda, Killianwali in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Sardulgarh and Boha in Mansa, Khanauri, Moonak, Lehra, Sunam, Chaji in Sangrur and Fatehgarh Sahib in Fatehgarh Sahib district.

The orders were issued under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, framed under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.

The British-era Indian Telegraph Act was first invoked on February 10 to block internet services seven districts of Punjab by the Union home ministry, marking the first time that the Centre used the Act outside of the capital city of New Delhi, according to The Hindu.

In Haryana, internet bans in districts bordering Punjab have been issued by the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Bharatiya Janata Party government. On Saturday, the state government extended the ban on internet and bulk SMS services in seven districts of Haryana till February 19.

Farmers will stage sit-in protests in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand on February 21 to press the Centre to accept their 21-point demand charter, said Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on Saturday. Tikait clarified that his organisation presently has no plans to join the farmers’ march to Delhi, but expressed solidarity with the protestors.

The primary demand of the farmers is a law guaranteeing a minimum support price for agricultural commodities. A minimum support price 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 the farmers.

Other demands in their charter include the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission’s wider recommendations for farming in India, pensions for farmers and farm labourers, a farm debt waiver and the reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013.

The farmers’ have also demanded India’s withdrawal from the World Trade Organization and compensation for families of farmers who died during the previous farmers’ protests between 2020 and 2021.

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