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Explained: Why farmer unions did not attend Haryana govt meeting on blocked highways

The protesting farmers have claimed they are not responsible for the highway blockades and that the government was “misinterpreting” the SC order. We explain why.

Written by Varinder Bhatia , Edited by Explained Desk | Chandigarh |
Updated: September 22, 2021 11:48:52 am
During the farmers' protest. (Express Photo: Jaipal Singh, File)

In wake of the Supreme Court’s August 23 order on opening up highways blocked by protests, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar recently chaired a meeting to persuade farmers to lift blockades on NH-44, especially near Singhu border in Sonipat district. A committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home), with another senior bureaucrat and top police officers, was constituted to hold talks with the farmers.

However, farmers did not go for the meeting, saying they were not responsible for the blockades and that the government was “misinterpreting” the SC order and “unnecessarily dragging the farmers’ agitation to be a party to the ongoing petition.”

We explain what the deadlock is, and what happens next.

What did Supreme Court say in its August 23 order?

Hearing a writ petition by one Monicca Aggarwal over inconvenience being faced by commuters on National Highway 44 (Ambala-New Delhi stretch) due to the farmers’ protest and the blockades at Singhu border, the SC, on August 23, said, “We impressed upon the learned Solicitor General that the solution lies in the hands of Union of India and the concerned state governments and they must coordinate to ensure that if the protests are on, at least the inter-state roads and national highways are not blocked in any manner whatsoever so that to and fro on those roads does not cause great inconvenience to the other persons who use these roads”.

Who is in the state’s high-powered committee to hold talks with farmers?

The committee is headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Rajeev Arora, while state police chief DGP PK Agrawal, ADGP (Law and Order) Navdeep Singh Virk and Balkar Singh (Home Secretary-1) are members. The task to arrange the meeting between the committee and farmer leaders was assigned to the Sonipat district administration, and it was convened in Murthal, barely a few kilometres from Singhu border.

Why did farmer unions turn down the committee’s invitation for talks?

The Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) coordination committee decided not to hold talks with the panel, saying the Haryana government was “misinterpreting” the SC order.

“The Supreme Court, in its order of 23rd August 2021 in WP (Civil) No. 249/2021, has impressed upon the Solicitor General of India that the solution lies in the hands of Union of India and the concerned State Governments. SKM re-asserts that this is indeed so. The Government of India has been adamant about not fulfilling the farmers’ rightful demands, and has not initiated any talks with farmers’ representatives after January 22, 2021,” a statement issued by SKM read.

“The Government does know where the solution lies and has been vengefully obstinate about putting protesting farmers through many hardships, even though more than 600 protestors have been martyred so far. It is shameful that an elected government in the world’s largest democracy is putting its citizens through such a struggle for saving their own livelihoods and future,” the statement added.

Who is being blamed by farmers for the blockades on NH-44?

The SKM added that “farmers have been prevented by Haryana and Delhi Police which put up barricades and blocked the roads. It is not the farmers who have blocked the roads. In fact, protesting farmers have created clear paths on both sides of the road at Singhu Border as well as Tikri Border for traffic to move, and have been forced to occupy only one side of the road at Ghazipur Border. Same is the situation at Shahjahanpur Border and other morchas.

SKM reminded Union government and concerned state governments that the Supreme Court in its Order has made them responsible for coordinating, whereas farmer unions were unnecessarily being dragged into this by the Haryana government.”

What is the state government planning to do?

Because the Supreme Court has put the onus on the Union and state governments for finding a “solution” to the ongoing standoff with farmers, it becomes the responsibility of the Haryana government to take the initiative.

“The government extended a hand to the farmers with an aim to hear them out and discuss the inconvenience being faced by commuters. Industry in Sonipat and neighbouring districts of Haryana is badly affected due to the ongoing blockade. Several industries have shut down. Others are on the verge of getting shut. Industrialists have even submitted representations to the state government. All these issues could have been discussed in the meeting, but they did not turn up. We shall keep making efforts to bring them on table,” a senior Haryana government officer told The Indian Express.

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