Farmers from several states gathered at Jantar Mantar Monday for a mahapachayat with a set of common demands, including that of a law to guarantee minimum support price (MSP).
The unions that were at the site gathered under the name of ‘Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political)’, with farmers arriving from states including Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Karnataka and Kerala.
The SKM issued a statement Monday distancing itself from the protest at Jantar Mantar. It said “a few farm unions who were part of SKM during farmers protest 2020-21 are organising this. Jagjeet Singh Dallewal of BKU (Bharatiya Kisan Union) Ekta Sidhupur, is leading the protest while rest of the farm unions and leaders are not a part of it”.
Baldev Singh Sirsa of SKM (non-political) said, “Our demand was that MSP will be implemented through a law… We were also told cases filed against farmers will be withdrawn, which has not been done. We want justice for the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. Our demands are met only through agitation, why is that? If the government does not meet the demands, the protest will be intensified…”
Shiv Kumar Kakka, national president of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh, and a part of the SKM (non-political), said, “People who had political ambitions put pressure on us (to withdraw the protest last year). If we had continued, we would have won the entire fight. But those who wanted to contest elections packed up and left… They abandoned the fight midway… they were people of political groups. They fought the polls and people of Punjab taught them a lesson.”
The farmers handed over a memorandum with nine demands to Santosh Kumar Rai, district magistrate, New Delhi, “to be handed over to the President’s office”, according to Atamjit Singh, national coordinator, BKU (Asli). Leaders part of the protest will meet Tuesday to decide further course of action.
Farmer leaders said those attempting to reach the venue were stuck in some places. Dallewal said farmers coming into Delhi were stopped at Karnal bypass. The Delhi-Gurgaon highway too saw traffic jams. DCP (East) Priyanka Kashyap said some protesters were stopped at Ghazipur border, and were allowed to proceed to their destinations after due verification.
For farmers who were at protest sites on Delhi’s borders till November last year, the protest at Jantar Mantar is a continuation of sorts. “We protested for a year and our demands have still not been met. So, we had to come back,” said Kuldeep Singh, a farmer from Faridkot, who said he spent a year at the Tikri border, helping prepare food for nearly 400 people.
The primary demand among those who gathered was that of the minimum support price. Uma Shankar, who was among around 500 farmers who arrived from Bundelkhand, said, “To grow a quintal of peas, I need Rs 14,000. But it is being sold only for around Rs 2500 per quintal. Electricity is also expensive.”
Sachin Mohapatra, a farmer leader from Odisha, said, “This is not just a Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan fight. It is about farmers across the country.” He added that maize was being sold below the MSP in Odisha and that farmers ended up spending Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000 to come to Delhi for such protests.
Suresh Mallanagowda Patil, who arrived Sunday night from Karnataka with 300 farmers from the state, said, “There are 70 farm produce for which we need MSP, and that MSP should be a law. The MSP should be as per the MS Swaminathan report, which is cost+50%.”
Other demands raised at the protest include increasing the support price for sugarcane and repealing the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022.