It’s not all of a sudden that thousands of farmers from Haryana have joined the protests against the three contentious central farm laws. In fact, farmers had been raising voice for their local issues for the past several years. All that the farmer leaders did was channelise this anger collectively into building a major peasant movement in Haryana.
Now, the farmers from the state are not only actively participating in the agitation against the three laws but are also supplying ration and milk to their counterparts from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh camping at Delhi borders.
The Indian Express revisits the recent farmer agitations in the state that led to to the build-up visible on the ground now.
Gurnam Singh Chaduni, 64, has been at the centre stage of the farm agitations in Haryana especially in districts of Kurukshetra, Ambala and Yamunanagar for the past couple of years. Probably that’s why maximum farmers from these three districts have participated in the stir. Even against the three farm laws, the farmers under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), led by Chaduni in Haryana, had started protesting as early as in July this year when they had staged tractor-march at various places. According to Chaduni, as many as 15,000 tractors were part of the protests on July 20.
Earlier, not happy with the conditions imposed for procurement of paddy, the BKU in September had called the farmers to block roads in front of mandis. The BKU had objected to the cap on paddy procurement under which the government agencies were supposed to procure the produce up to 25 quintals per acre only.
Following the farmers’ stir, this limit was increased.
Chaduni had led a “sit-in” inside waters of flooded Begna river in Ambala district for five days for the release of dues of sugarcane farmers and had ended the agitation only after the government agreed to release the dues of Rs 70 crore. Before this, Chaduni along with other farmers had climbed an 80-feet tall water-tank demanding purchase of entire sunflower crop.
He came down only after the government agreed to purchase the entire produce of the farmers. In 2017, the farmers had stopped supply of vegetables and milk to towns for 10 days apart from blocking national highway seeking implementation of Swaminathan Commission report.
Anger over online crop registration
The government claims that the online registration of crops is meant to ensure procurement in a transparent and systematic manner. However, this system has angered the farmers as it occasionally delays the procurement process. Not only during the procurement of wheat but even during paddy season, the farmers raised questions on this system. The farmers staged protests including blocking of roads whenever and wherever they faced problems in procurement. Arhtiyas (commission agents) at mandis too are upset with this system. Now, the arhtiyas are supporting the agitating farmers.
Swaraj India’s Jai Kisan Andolan
As part of this movement, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav has travelled various mandis of Haryana, especially in southern parts of the state, to ensure procurement of bajra and mustard. Under the leadership of Yadav, the farmers had staged a dharna in Rewari for 52 days demanding that the entire crop of bajra in 2018 be purchased by the government.
In 2019 too, Yadav raised this issue. “The government agencies were not procuring the entire crop of bajra from the farmers, in many cases despite registration on the government portal.
The agitation forced the authorities to purchase more bajra at the minimum support price (MSP). The problem arose in case of mustard too when Centre imposed a 30 per cent cap on procurement. But after our agitation, the authorities were forced to purchase almost 50 per cent of the mustard from farmers this year,” says Rajeev Godara, an activist of ‘Jai Kisan Andolan’.
Also in Explained | Why liberalising Indian agriculture is not in sync with what other countries do
Stir for compensation for damaged crops
In recent few years, the farmers have staged protests to demand compensation for their crops damaged due to diseases and other natural calamities in different parts of the state, particularly in Hisar, Sirsa and Bhiwani districts. In Sirsa, the farmers remained on agitation for 20 days demanding compensation from the government and insurance companies for damaged cotton crop. The farmers also staged protests in front of the residences of BJP-JJP leaders.
“Finally, the government had to order special girdawari to assess the losses with private insurance companies too coming forward to conduct a survey for the same,” says Vikal Pachar, president Akhil Bhartiya Swaminathan Sanghrash Samiti.
“In 2018, the private insurance companies had agreed to disburse a compensation of Rs 340 crore to the farmers in lieu of damage to the crops after a 50-day long farmers’ agitation. Five farmers had even climbed 150-feet tall water tank as part of the agitation and came down only after five days when our demands were met,” Pachar adds. Now, Pachar along with 1,200 farmers from Sirsa is camping at Delhi borders for the past six days. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram
Restrictions on paddy cultivation
In May this year, the farmers had staged a tractor march in Fatehabad district to oppose restrictions on paddy cultivation. The state government had restricted the paddy cultivation to 50 per cent area in 19 blocks, which have groundwater below 40 metres.
The government had stated the move was aimed at water conservation but it had invited farmers’ anger as they earn considerable savings only through paddy cultivation. Sensing farmers’ mood, the government had to relax certain conditions on the paddy cultivation.
Now, Kisan Sanghrash Samiti convener Mandeep Nathwan, who had led the tractor march, is camping at Tikri border of Delhi along with 2,000 farmers from Fatehabad district.
Khaps taking an active interest
With Punjab farmers taking led in the stir, the khap panchayats in Haryana have started mobilising farmers in villages to join the agitation. The khaps are social groups with maximum participation from Jat community members who are engaged in agricultural activities. The farm bodies of Left parties too are actively participating in the agitation.