The Aam Aadmi Party on Monday staged a protest against the Centre’s new farm laws at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also joined the demonstration, demanding the withdrawal of the laws and 100% minimum support price guarantee to the farmers.

“The Aam Aadmi Party strongly opposes the three anti-farmer laws,” Kejriwal said while addressing the members of his party. The three laws must be rolled back, there can be no compromise on this. A law must be introduced to ensure that all crops are bought at the Minimum Support Price across the country.”

The Delhi chief minister said that the Bharatiya Janata Party had not fulfilled its promise of giving the farmers good prices for their produce. “The BJP had promised to follow the Swaminathan Committee’s recommendations and implement a 1.5 times increase in MSP when they were asking for votes for the 2014 elections,” Kejriwal said. “After winning the elections, they did away with MSP altogether.”

Kejriwal added: “The Centre says that the produce of only 6% of the farmers is bought at MSP. The government must be ashamed if this figure is accurate.”

The Delhi Chief Minister also accused his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh and Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal of just pretending to oppose the laws. “Are they opposing the laws that they created,” he asked. “Do they think the people are fools?”

The Delhi Police, meanwhile, detained Aam Aadmi Party Punjab Punjab President Bhagwant Mann and over 100 members of the party, according to PTI.

Farm laws

The three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – were passed in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

Weeks later, protests against the laws continue to be staged in many parts of the country. 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.

Farmers in Punjab's Shambhu block a highway on September 25 to protest against Parliament passing three agricultural bills. | Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Taken together, the three legislations loosen regulations on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural produce. They allow farmers to sell outside mandis notified by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. They enable contract farming through deals with private sector companies. They take food items like cereals and pulses off the list of essential commodities, lifting stock limits on such produce.

The government claims the new laws would give farmers the freedom to sell in the open market. But farmers disagree. They say the laws will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, leave farmers to the mercy of market forces and threaten food security.