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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Mandi system crumbling, Centre needs to listen to us: Farmers’ chorus at Jantar Mantar on Day 2

Two-hundred farmers were present, most of them new faces as they said they are attending the protest in batches. The DDMA under the L-G had earlier given permission to farmers to protest at Jantar Mantar, albeit in small batches.

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
Updated: July 24, 2021 9:20:18 am
Farmers attend the second day of 'Kisan Sansad' during a protest against the Central government's three farm laws at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

Day 2 of the ‘Kisan Sangat’ began at Jantar Mantar as scheduled, but this time, with a stage, proper seating arrangements and under a shade. Protesters took turns to speak about how the mandi system is being destroyed because of the Centre’s three farm laws.

Two-hundred farmers were present, most of them new faces as they said they are attending the protest in batches. The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) under the L-G had earlier given permission to farmers to protest at Jantar Mantar, albeit in small batches.

Police barricades surrounded the shed, with dedicated entry and exit points. Flags of various hues of numerous farmer associations had been hoisted on barricades. At least eight standing fans had been arranged to deal with the searing heat.

Farmers attend the second day of ‘Kisan Sansad’ at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

Farmers from Punjab and Haryana spoke about how the mandi system is under duress — their speeches indicating how a lot has changed since they first started protesting at Delhi’s borders in late November last year. A speaker from Haryana said mandis have stopped functioning in four districts in the state. Many also raised questions about the minimum support price (MSP) and how many farmers actually receive it.

Rahul Raj, a farm leader from Madhya Pradesh who keeps coming to the protests, was among the speakers. Addressing the audience, he said, “Mandi system has its flaws but we were asking them to fix it. Instead, they’ve finished around 80 mandis in the state. It is eventually becoming completely privatised.”

“The government did not purchase moong and makki from farmers this year but procured it privately. By discouraging us to grow certain crops, they are indirectly encouraging private players. This is what happened with soya bean oil, which is now only produced privately and costs around Rs 250 per litre. Earlier, it was lower than Rs 100. If no one else grows it, private players hoard it and the price keeps increasing.” He added that farmers and labourers struggled during the second wave of Covid as they did not receive their dues, nor could they approach courts.

Farmers from Haryana and Punjab said that they will soon share the same fate if things don’t change soon.

The speeches went on till 5 pm, when protesters got into buses and left for Singhu.

Part of the event was a play, during which a farmer who played a ‘krishi mantri’ defended the three laws. His justification of the laws was met with voices screaming ‘shame’. After this, farmers were given the stage to explain why they are wary of the laws. The protester who played the minister then agreed with them.

Farmers attend the second day of ‘Kisan Sansad’ at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Friday. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

A protester said, “The intention of this play was to show the government that if they listen to us, we can all finally come to a conclusion.”

Prakreet Singh, a farmer from Tarn Taran in Punjab, said, “The laws have to be repealed either today or tomorrow.” It was his first day at Jantar Mantar. He wore a card that had been issued especially for the day. Farmers said 200 new cards are issued every day. The numbers make it easier to commute as they enter the buses based on these numbers.

Two washrooms had been set up by authorities and two water tanks were provided by the NDMC. A langar was organised by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. A CATS ambulance was deployed at the spot and another ambulance, from the farmers’ side, was also present.

The ambulance had been arranged by Dr Swaiman Singh, who returned from the US to help farmers at the Tikri border. He has been at the site for eight months, and wants to continue serving the protesters. He said, “Sometimes I do feel like going back… but nothing makes me happier than serving my people.” He said he would stick around till the protests end — that is till the laws are repealed.

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