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Explained: Why are protesting farmers back in Delhi?

Members of farm unions are pressing for making MSP a legal right, and for the sacking of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni.

Farmers arrived at Delhi's Jantar Mantar on Monday morning, following a call by some farm unions to protest against unemployment. (Express photo by Abhinaya Harigovind)

As thousands of farmers sought to reach Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital on Monday (August 22), Delhi Police said several border entry points including Tikri, Singhu, and Ghazipur were jammed and advised commuters to stay away.

Police were expecting more than 5,000 farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, to try to come to Delhi. In the afternoon, farmer leaders alleged vehicles carrying protesters were being stopped from entering the city; police, however, said they had been allowed to proceed after carrying out “due verification”.

Why are farmers back to protesting nine months after they forced the union government to withdraw the three farm laws?

According to Sumit Shastri, a youth leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), the protesting farmers are demanding, among other things, a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP), the sacking of Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, and the release of jailed farmers.

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Farmers arrived at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday morning, following a call by some farm unions to protest in support of their demands which include a legal guarantee for MSP, sacking of MoS Ajay Teni in view of his son’s connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and more. (Express photo by Abhinav Saha)

MSP: The Centre announces MSPs for 23 crops, including seven cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, bajra, jowar, ragi and barley), five pulses (chana, tur/arhar, moong, urad and masur), seven oilseeds (mustard-rapeseed, groundnut, soyabean, sunflower, sesamum, safflower and nigerseed) and four commercial crops (sugarcane, cotton, copra and raw jute).

The MSP is an indicative price; it does not have statutory backing, and farmers cannot demand MSP as a matter of right. In most crops grown across much of India, the prices received by farmers, especially during harvest time, are well below the officially-declared MSPs.

Besides the withdrawal of the three farm laws that the unions demanded for a year up to November 2021, the farmers wanted the Modi government to enact legislation conferring mandatory status to MSP, rather than allowing it to be merely an indicative or desired price.

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While the Prime Minister announced the withdrawal of the three farm laws on November 19, 2021, the government has resisted the pressure to make MSP a legal right. Last month, responding to a question in Parliament, the government clarified that it had not given any assurance to the protesting farmers on this count. The terms of reference of a committee set up by the Agriculture Ministry in July as a follow-up to the PM’s November 2021 announcement does not mention a legal guarantee for MSP — only the need to make MSP “more effective and transparent”.

According to BKU youth leader Sumit Shastri, farmers from across states gathered at Jantar Mantar today to protest in support of their demands. (Express photo by Abhinav Saha)

TENI: On October 3, last year, a convoy of three SUVs, including a Mahindra Thar owned by the Union Minister, ploughed into a group of farmers walking back after a protest in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri, killing four farmers and a journalist.

In the violence that followed, the driver of the Thar and two local BJP leaders were killed. There were allegations that Minister Teni’s son, Ashish Mishra alias Monu, was present at the spot, and he was arrested on October 11 last year. On January 3 this year, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) filed a chargesheet against 14 individuals including Ashish Mishra. In February, Ashish was released on bail.

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The farmers have long been demanding that Teni be dropped from the Union ministry. They have called for an independent judicial investigation into the incident, and held a three-day dharna to push for Teni’s sacking last week. The farmers also want that four of their colleagues who have been arrested in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri violence should be released.

First published on: 22-08-2022 at 15:43 IST
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