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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

‘Don’t think central govt will repeal farm laws, may water them down’

Manav Kamble, convenor of the Nagrik Haqq Surakshi Samiti and of one of those who led Tuesday's farmers' protest in Pimpri-Chinchwad, spoke to The Indian Express about the future course of action.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune | Updated: December 9, 2020 10:13:10 am
farmer protests, farmer govt talks, amit shah, farmer protests delhi, farm laws, Bharat bandh, Amit Shah farmers talk, Punjab, Haryana, India news, indian express newsFarmers had called Bharat Bandh against the three central farm laws (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

As many as 25 social and voluntary organisations, as well as the three constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, have extended their support to the protesting farmers in Delhi. Manav Kamble, convenor of the Nagrik Haqq Surakshi Samiti and of one of those who led Tuesday’s protest in Pimpri-Chinchwad, spoke to The Indian Express about the future course of action.

What was the response to Bharat Bandh call in Pimpri-Chinchwad ?

There was no bandh as such, but residents of Pimpri-Chinchwad extended full support to the farmers who are agitating in the bitter cold of Delhi to repeal the farm laws enacted by the central government. For the first time, as many as 25 organisations working in different fields and three political parties came together to extend their support to the farmers and condemn the attitude of the central government. Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena workers and leaders had joined the protest. Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi held a separate protest…

Overall, did the bandh call make an impact?

In north India, the bandh has succeeded. In Maharashtra, in rural parts, there was good response to the bandh call. The aggrieved farmers have succeeded in sending out a strong message to the central government, which is refusing to listen to their demands. The bandh was necessary as the government was using all possible tactics to defame and silence the protesting farmers. In the bitter cold of Delhi, water cannons are being used. Some ruling party leaders have gone to the extent of calling farmers Moaists and Khalistanis. In view of such devious ways adopted by the rulers, it was necessary for farmers across the country to unite and assert themselves. Today’s bandh has further strengthened farmers’ resolve to keep up their fight until they get justice.

Why are farmers in Maharashtra not protesting in a big way like they are doing in north India?

Firstly, the APMCs are strong and in big numbers in states like Punjab and Haryana. That is not the case in Maharashtra. In Maharashtra, minimum support price is required for crops like cotton, tur and soyabean, which are grown on wide scale only in Vidarbha and Marathwada. The other parts of Maharashtra are more reliant on cash crops, where there is little role of minimum support price. That is why the protests in Maharashtra are muted. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government has extended support to the agitating farmers. In fact, the farmers of Punjab had sought support from the MVA government.

Do you think the central government will buckle under pressure and repeal the farm laws ?

It all depends on Wednesday’s meeting convened by Home Minister Amit Shah with the agitating farmers. We are hopeful that some kind of solution will be found. However, we don’t think the central government will repeal the laws. This is because of the ego of top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. Earlier, they had withdrawn the Land Acquisition Bill as they did not have majority in Rajya Sabha. Now, they have majority in Rajya Sabha. Therefore, they are adamant on their stand. They have little regard for democracy and people’s voices. They believe that whatever they do or say is right. What people say does not matter to them.

What if the talks between the farmers and government fail once again?

Though four to five rounds of talks have been held so far, they have made little headway as the government is insensitive and adamant. I think Wednesday’s meeting will be decisive. The government is likely to suggest major changes to placate the agitating farmers. One thing is for sure, they will not repeal the law. But yes, as a face saver, they may water down the laws in consultation with farmers.

However, in case they don’t do so or the farmers are unhappy with the changes or the amendments suggested in the law, then we can expect a protracted battle ahead. It is going to be tough for the government to handle the protest, which will spread like wildfire. We will also take a call after the meeting between the government and the farmers to decide our future course of action.

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