Block roads to Delhi: Agitating farmers call for nationwide shutdown
The farmers, who have been protesting fiercely against three newly-enacted farm laws, have called for a nationwide shutdown on Tuesday, December 8, and threatened to block all roads leading to the National Capital, Delhi. The clarion call came ahead of crucial talks with the Centre. Today, representatives of the farmers will meet ministers for the fifth such meeting to end the standoff. Here's more.
The three laws, passed after much controversy during the Parliament's Monsoon Session, have sparked worry among farmers of a lesser income. Concerned that they will be left at the mercy of big corporate players, the farmers asked the Centre to repeal the laws. And to mount pressure, they manned Delhi's borders. The government's suggestion to shift to a designated protest site was spurned.
On Thursday, farmers' representatives spoke with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar, but the over seven-hour-long marathon meeting remained inconclusive. Before the meeting, Tomar held discussions with Home Minister Amit Shah. The Centre is learned to have told farmers it would consider bringing amendments, but the protesters want the laws to be repealed. Their agitation has derailed normalcy, with serpentine queues of vehicles dotting highways.
Implying that the protest will be intensified, Harinder Singh Lakhowal, General Secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union, a group steering the agitation, informed about the Bharat Bandh. He said all toll plazas will be occupied. "We have planned to block all roads leading to Delhi in the coming days if new farm laws are not scrapped," he said. All India Kisan Sabha is also supporting the bandh.
"We see the government agreeing to our demands on Minimum Support Price, electricity, and penalties for stubble burning but we won't stop till the laws are repealed," Satnam Singh Ajnala, President of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Punjab, told news channel NDTV.
Delhi: Farmers continue to hold a sit-in protest at Chilla border (Delhi-Noida Link Road) against the Centre's #FarmLaws.— ANI (@ANI) December 5, 2020
A farmer says, "If anything concrete doesn't happen in today's meeting with the Central government then we will gherao the Parliament." pic.twitter.com/4mPOeAm9Xm
To note, the issues on which the government is willing to discuss now were raised by the opposition during the last session of Parliament. The Centre chose to not address them. On Minimum Support Price, which forms the basis for the protest, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, had said farmers were worried these laws would abolish procurement of produce at MSPs, reports IE.
"The Bill is silent about the Minimum Support Price (MSP) which is essential for the survival of farmers. The Government should stipulate mandatory rules for the Minimum Support Price. That is more important for the farmers than anything else," AIADMK's SR Balasubramoniyan had said.
The concern around the mandi system was also mentioned. Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar of the TDP said the proposals "would break state's control over farmers enabling them to choose whom they want to sell to... without paying the market fee, the corporate sector will purchase agriculture produce outside the market through brokers according to the price fixed by them." BJD's Anubhav Mohanty feared that APMCs will fade away.
As the Bills created a flutter back then, Tomar urged farmers to not get diverted. "I want to request the farmers not to get influenced by disinformation for political ends," he said in the Lok Sabha on September 17. Earlier this week, PM Narendra Modi also claimed that farmers are misinformed, claiming that even those not in favor of the changes will reap benefits.