Farmers, who are protesting against the Centre’s new agriculture laws, have warned that they will block all roads to Delhi if authorities stop them during their march on November 26 and 27, The Indian Express reported on Monday. They will reach the national Capital on Thursday via five highways as part of their “Delhi Chalo’’ march.
After nearly two months of protesting against the farm laws, Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal) President Balbir Singh Rajewal said that they had decided to lift the rail blockade in Punjab as their entire focus was now on the march to Delhi. The Railways had suspended train services to the state after the farmers began their agitation on October 1.
“Haryana farmers will block the National Highway [in that state] towards Delhi side,” Singh said. “Farmers from Uttar Pradesh will also block the roads leading to Delhi in case they are stopped. In such a scenario, will be locked from all sides by farmers from across the country. We will sit on dharnas wherever we are stopped. We will carry along ration, tents, mattresses, quilts...We are used to sleeping on roads and will continue to sleep on roads. Farmers from across the country, not only from Punjab, will sleep on roads wherever they are stopped during the march to Delhi. It is up to the Centre to take a call on what they want to do.”
The Arvind Kejriwal-led government in Delhi, however, has denied permission to farmers to stage any rally at either the Ram Leela Ground or at Jantar Mantar. The farmers have maintained that they will undertake the march, saying “it is a matter of our very existence”.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh and various factions of Bharatiya Kisan Union have formed a “Samyukta Kisan Morcha’’ to pressurise the central government to scrap the three farm laws, according to PTI.
Rajewal also told The Indian Express that they were not worried about crowding, violation of physical distancing norms and night curfew imposed in some states due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Punjab farmers plan to enter Haryana via several routes in order to reach Delhi,” he added. “It is being apprehended that Haryana, which has a BJP-JJP [Bharatiya Janata Party-Jannayak Janata Party] government, may seal its borders. In that case, Punjab farmers will sit on dharnas at the borders and it will eventually create problems for commuters from both the states.”
He added that Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee has opposed their decision to allow trains to resume for a 15-day period from Monday in Punjab. “But that is between the government and that union,” he continued. “Moreover, if our demands are not met, we will again sit on tracks from December 10”.
Balbir Kaur, a Bharti Kisan Union (Dakaunda) leader from Punjab’s Mansa, said that men, women and children will join the protest march in large numbers. “For us, it is like a war with Delhi over the farm laws,” Kaur added. “We never thought it would go this far, but now we are prepared.”
The farm laws
The Parliament had passed 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 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.
Protests had erupted against the laws 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.
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 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.
Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills. The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest allies, pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance in protest against these bills.