The stir against the farm bills also played out on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border Friday, as farmers from Western UP districts, including Meerut, Hapur, Ghaziabad and Noida, took to the streets to protest, albeit peacefully.
More than 150 farmers hailing from Gautam Budh Nagar staged a protest at the Delhi-Noida border in Sector 14A in the afternoon. Hailing from areas near the Expressway and Greater Noida border, they came in cars and tractors, and were halted by authorities near the Sector 18 flyover. The protesters then walked more than 3 km to the border where local leaders addressed the crowd as police watched.
“This is a peaceful protest, and they did not pose a threat to law and order. They wanted to march towards Delhi, but, as decided, a small delegation will go and hand over their memorandum to the person concerned. Following this, the protesters plan to return. We diverted traffic to maintain smooth operations,” said Ranvijay Singh, Addl SP City.
The protest in Noida was led by Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), which is active in the Western UP region. Farmers at the protest hailed from a commercial belt of Noida where a large chunk of land has been acquired for development projects.
“This protest is for our rights. Our village is near the Expressway, and we have anyway been suffering because of the pandemic,” said Anuj (25), a farmer.
In Western UP, besides the sugarcane belt in and around Muzaffarnagar, the majority crops grown by farmers are wheat and paddy. Farmers allege that the provisions in the new Bill have little clarity on the crucial aspect of Minimum Support Price (MSP), which is a key economic factor during procurement.
“My family has been in the farming profession for generations, and it feels for the first time that we will lose our lands. This Bill reflects the fact that corporations want to get control of the core farming activity. Even beyond that, the biggest aspect is the cost of procurement. This reform does not mention what will happen if the crop is sold below MSP. The MSP for wheat is approximately Rs 1,975 per quintal and for paddy Rs 2,000. I myself have sold it several times for Rs 1,600. If they do not wish to check this practice, what will the farmer have for himself?” asked Pawan Khatana (39) who grows wheat in 25 bhiga land in Greater Noida’s Dankaur.
The farmers allege that the Bill will further destroy the mandi system, which is an important intermediary in procurement.
Subhash Tyagi (68), a retired geography teacher from a government school in Meerut, now looks after 70 bighas of farm in Hapur, which belonged to his late parents. Subhas feels a monopolistic corporate culture will invade farming in the times to come.
“Why can’t they simply criminalise buying lower than MSP? Surely, regulations can come up for that,” asked Subhash.
More than 100 policemen had been deployed at the border and a water cannon was kept on standby, said an officer.
BKU district leaders addressed the crowd with slogans such as ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’, ‘Give us MSP’ and ‘Take back land reform’.
“BKU believes it will bring License Raj back in farming. The law of control, storage and import-export policies are against the interests of farmers. Hence we demand that the three Bills be taken back and MSP be extended to both fruits and vegetables. Anything being sold below the MSP should be a crime,” said Anit Kasana, BKU’s Gautam Budh Nagar unit secretary , in the memorandum submitted to PMO.
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