Farmers to block Delhi-Jaipur highway today to escalate protests
Thousands of farmers have planned to stage a tractor rally on Sunday blocking the Delhi-Jaipur highway in protest against the central government's new agricultural laws. The rally will follow a declaration from farmers' unions to intensify their protests as they rejected the government's proposal to amend the contentious laws. The farmers say they will accept nothing short of a complete rollback.
At 11 am on Sunday, thousands of farmers will march from Rajasthan's Shahjahanpur with their tractors, blocking the Delhi-Jaipur highway. "We are fully prepared to control the protests from escalating," a senior Gurugram cop has told NDTV. Farmer leaders have threatened to block all major highways to Delhi. On Saturday, a group of protesters was stopped from blocking the Delhi-Agra highway.
Protesting farmers had also picketed several highway toll plazas in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan on Saturday, allowing toll-free movement of vehicles. The farmers say thousands of others are expected to arrive in Delhi as the protests intensify. The farmers also plan to sit on a hunger strike between 8 am and 5 pm at the Delhi-Haryana Singhu border on Monday.
For months, farmers have protested against the three farm laws passed in September. The protests intensified in late-November as thousands of farmers from several states reached Delhi, braving a police crackdown. Farmers fear that by allowing trade outside APMC mandis, the laws will weaken the mandis and they would be deprived of Minimum Support Prices (MSPs), leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by corporations.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear three petitions over the farm laws. One of the petitions has been filed by a student from Delhi alleging that the protests are blocking emergency health services in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The second petition mentions the heavy crackdown the protesters faced, while the third submitted that the protesters should be allowed to enter Delhi.
The Bharatiya Kisan Union—one of the protesting factions—had also moved the Supreme Court on Friday, seeking to repeal the agricultural reforms. The farmer leaders had unanimously rejected the government's proposal to amend the laws earlier on Wednesday, pushing for a complete rollback.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that the reforms would increase the farmers' income. On Saturday, farmer leaders from Haryana submitted a memorandum of support for the new laws after a meeting with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. After the meeting, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Mann) leader Guni Prakash told reporters, "We will also protest if the government repeals the law."
A breakthrough is expected in the resolution of the protests in the next 24-48 hours, Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala said Saturday. Chautala's Jannayak Janata Party forms the Haryana government in alliance with the BJP, which leads the ruling-NDA that passed the contentious laws.