With enough ration, vegetables, wood, clothes, and other essentials, the farmers from across the country are set to lay an “indefinite siege of Delhi” on Thursday against the three farm laws and Centre’s plan to amend the Electricity Act. Anger against the three central farm legislation has been simmering since September. For the last three days, thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have been marching toward the national capital and are nearing the borders.

After failing to garner support from their respective state governments, the farmers have decided to mount pressure on the Union government, due to which they are coming to Delhi. While BJP governments in UP and Haryana have failed to convince farmers, governments of Rajasthan and Punjab have extended full support to their agitation. They want the Union government to either withdraw the three legislations or guarantee them the minimum support price (MSP) for their crops by introducing a new law.

On the other hand, the Delhi police have said that they would not allow any protests by farmers. So let understand everything step by step, firstly.

WHY FARMERS TAKING THESE STEPS?

The farmers have opposed the three contentious farm laws that were enacted by the Centre on September 27. They have been demanding to repeal the farm laws, alleging that none of the stakeholders was consulted before the enactment of the laws. Their biggest fear is the end of minimum support prices (MSP) procurement because of these laws. However, the Centre has denied any uncertainty regarding MSP.

They believe the laws will open agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers, remove the barriers to inter-state trade, and provide a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce. Since the state governments will not be able to collect the market fees, cess, or levy for trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates. They believe that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP. Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation.

The Centre has time and again, asserted that the laws will transform the agriculture system in India and will let farmers sell their produce anywhere in the country. Amid the ongoing protests, the Central government has also invited farmer unions from Punjab for the second round of ministerial talks on December 3 to resolve differences over the new agriculture laws.

Talking about the end of MSP, the food secretary said, “Earlier laws too did not have any mention of MSP. Even the new agri-laws do not mention it. MSP is mentioned only in the National Food Security Act (NFSA) which has not been changed.

PRESENT SITUATION

Farmer leaders were arrested in Haryana on November 24th and 25th with intention of preventing them from travelling to Delhi. Even after giving undertaking of peaceful conduct and offering of bail bond, the farmer leaders were kept in custody. Water cannons were used against farmers near Kurukshetra, despite which the farmers continued to move towards Delhi. Haryana has decided to completely seal its borders with Punjab on November 26 and 27. The Punjab-Haryana border has not only been barricaded but fortified with boulders and barbed wire fence. The CRPF has also been deployed.

Farmers’ convoy led by Medha Patkar, Pratibha Shinde, Kavita Srinivasan and others, travelling from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh was stopped at the Rajasthan-UP border between Dholpur and Agra, and not allowed to enter into Uttar Pradesh, resulting in a partial blockade of the national highway for several hours. Farmers’ convoys from Uttarakhand have been blocked at points within Uttarakhand as well as in Uttar Pradesh.

Supporting the protests, Shiromani Akali Dal President, Sukhbir Singh Badal said, “By stopping Punjabi farmers from peacefully exercising democratic rights, Centre is repeating 1982 when the Akalis were stopped from entering Delhi to protest. Painful history must not be forced to repeat itself.”

Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh urged farmers to reciprocate the Union Home Minister’s gesture by accepting his appeal to shift to a designated place, thus paving the way for early talks to resolve their issues, also he said Won’t talk to Khattar until he apologises for ‘inflicting brutality’ on farmers.

CENTRAL RESPONSE

Amid massive protests for the third consecutive day by farmers heading to the national capital, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Saturday said the Centre is ready for talks with them anytime as he appealed to farmers to call off their agitation and come for discussion.

Union home minister Amit Shah on Saturday said that the Centre will hear the concerns and demands of the agitating farmers and urged them to move to the designated protest site in north Delhi.

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