Why are farmers protesting? A timeline of everything that happened
For nearly a month now, farmers and the Union government have been at loggerheads over three farm laws that were passed in the Parliament in September. Braving the chilly weather, farmers have been camping at the borders of Delhi, hoping to pressurize the government to repeal the laws. So, what led to the agitation that now has the world's attention? Here's a timeline.
While the passage of the Bills created an uproar, talks about these reforms had been dominating political corridors for some time. In June, President Ram Nath Kovind promulgated the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020. It was said these ordinances will revamp the agricultural sector.
Under the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, farmers were allowed to sell their produce to anyone they wish. The other ordinance created a framework for contract farming, meant to protect and empower farmers. Besides these two, the Centre also introduced the Essential Commodities (Amendment), 2020, directly in the Parliament which deregulated the production, supply, and distribution of essential items like potatoes, onions, etc.
In September, the Bills were introduced in the Parliament's Monsoon Session where the government, led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), faced massive resistance. Riding on the comfortable majority, the government managed to get the Bills passed in Lok Sabha but struggled in Rajya Sabha. Several members of the Opposition protested, tore papers, raised slogans, and even allegedly manhandled staff members.
Owing to the unruly behavior, eight Rajya Sabha MPs were suspended for a week on September 21, prompting them to stage an overnight dharna at Parliament premises. The resistance from Opposition, notwithstanding, the Centre managed to push through the Bills in the Upper House as well. By September 22, all the three Bills had cleared the Rajya Sabha test.
While the government says it is ushering in a new era in agriculture by allowing competition, farmers believe that eventually mandis would be rendered toothless and they will be left at the mercy of corporates. They also fear the companies will decide procurement rates. Notably, the protest is concentrated in Punjab and Haryana as government procurement in these states is excellent.
Notably, farmers had started protesting in June itself when the ordinances were promulgated. On June 6, effigies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) were burnt in hundreds of villages of Punjab. On June 14, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) released a statement saying these ordinances will "kill farming." Till June 30, villagers stood on their rooftops for an hour to register their objection to ordinances.
The sentiments against the ordinances heightened in July when effigies of members of NDA and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) were burnt in villages. Eventually, tractors also became a symbol of protest with parties like the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress also taking out their marches. Understanding the fury of farmers, SAD quit NDA in September, while asking the Centre to dump these proposals.
On September 25, farmers from across the nation participated in a Bharat Bandh, called by BKU, All India Farmers Union (AIFU), All India Kisan Mahasangh (AIKM), and All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). The epicenter of this shutdown was Punjab and Haryana with farmers blocking the Amritsar-Delhi National Highway. Opposition leaders, including Bihar's Tejashwi Yadav, drove a tractor to support the shutdown.
After the sporadic protests didn't force the Centre to repeal the laws, nearly 40 farmers's organizations planned a massive agitation, which entailed them to march toward Delhi and stage a sit-in there. However, they were stopped mid-way, with police even using water cannons on them, forcing them to sit on the borders. The Singhu border became the center-point of the agitation.
The farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, garnered support and the crowd kept swelling at borders. Meanwhile, the Centre also tried to placate them and held talks with their representatives. So far, five rounds of talks have happened, wherein the government indicated it won't rollback the laws but can give a written assurance on minimum support prices (MSPs). The Centre also promised mandis would stay.
Clearly, the Centre's attempts have failed so far and farmers said this week they will not agree for another round of dialogue until the government considers repealing the laws. The Supreme Court said earlier it could form an independent committee to end the deadlock. It also directed the government to not use force against farmers, while allowing them to stage a protest.