Security was stepped up in Singhu, where Delhi borders Haryana, as farmers decided to continue their protest on Sunday, reported ANI. Some protesting groups are expected to conduct a meeting at 11 am to discuss their next strategy.
The farmers are protesting against three new farm laws that they claim would discontinue the minimum support price regime, leaving them to deal with corporate entities. The protests began on November 25, with participation mostly from farmers of Punjab and Haryana.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday reached out to thousands of farmers, saying that the government was ready to talk. Some farmers continued with their protest at the approved site in Delhi’s Burari area, but many are yet to decide if they would head to the designated site. Thousands of farmers are still at state borders, protesting against the three farm laws.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar reiterated that the government was ready for talks with the farmers and has invited them on December 3.
Thousands of farmers in trucks, tractors and other vehicles at the Tikri and Singhu borders, who braved water cannons and batons, refused to budge even after three days. As the police manned the area, many said they would not go to Burari’s Sant Nirankari grounds, offered to them for peaceful protests, reported NDTV.
“Tomorrow [Sunday], there will be another meeting at 11 am. Till then, we are at Singhu,” Baljeet Singh Mahal, the Jalandhar unit president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union Kadia told the news channel.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) President Balbir Singh Rajewal also said that they had still not decided about going to the Burari ground. Rajewal added that they will decide the next course of action after a meeting. The Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), one of the biggest farmer groups in Punjab, agreed to not go to Burari.
Protesting farmers from Uttar Pradesh, assembled at the Ghazipur border, were also prepared to join the agitation in Delhi. Over 500 famers staged a sit-in protest at the Jhansi-Mirzapur National Highway in Kulpahad to demand the revocation of the three laws.
Meanwhile, Joint Commissioner of Police (North range) Surender Singh Yadav told NDTV that around 600 to 700 farmers had reached Burari, adding that he hoped more would reach the site.
Thousands of farmers had entered Delhi on Friday after the police gave them permission to agitate in the Burari area. The protestors had to brave tear gas and water cannons on both Thursday and Friday as they pushed to enter Delhi.
The authorities had taken extraordinary measures to set up blockades on highways, parking buses, trucks and other large vehicles. At some places, they even dug up trenches to obstruct farmers, many of whom camped on highways for the night in biting cold. Dramatic scenes unfolded at the borders as the farmers threw barricades set up by the police into a river. They also clashed with the police on a bridge.
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.
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.
Farmers and traders have alleged that the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the laws will leave them at the mercy of corporate powers. The government has maintained that farm laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
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.
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.