Behind a push for more representatives in the farmers’ delegation during Tuesday’s talks with the Centre is a concern that the unrest is being perceived as one limited to farmers from Punjab. At the border blockades at both Singhu and Tikri, an overwhelming majority of farmers present are from Punjab, followed by Haryana, and the coordinating unions have been keen that it not appear that only farmers from these two states are pushing for the repeal of the three new farm laws and legal assurance of fixed minimum support price (MSP).
Since Saturday, farmers from Western Uttar Pradesh have also been gathering at Delhi’s borders with UP, and small groups of farmers from a few other states, including Uttarakhand, have also started trickling in at the protest sites. And protest leaders, who on Wednesday gave a call for a nationwide protest on December 5, have also emphasised that farmers from other states, including Kerala and Maharashtra, will arrive in Delhi in the days to come.
Narender Sangwan from Sonepat was among those who expressed this sentiment, “From the whole country, farmers are coming towards Delhi. This is a question of all-India farm legislation and farmers all across the country will benefit from this movement.”
Small groups of farmers from other states who had already made it to Delhi’s borders expressed their desire that the MSP regime be fully implemented in their regions.
“In our village, we only get MSP for wheat and cotton. While the MSP for bajra is Rs 2,150 per quintal, we are selling it for Rs 1,300. It might take time for the movement to spread but I think it will happen gradually,” said Sahabram Sahran from Rajasthan’s Ganganagar district.
Also at Ghazipur border is a small group from Karnataka. Shabeer Basha (38), who cultivates coconut and silk in the state’s Tumkur district, said he travelled for eight days in a private vehicle to reach the Delhi border. He referred to the farmers’ protest as a “national movement”. On November 21, members of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha decided that they would join the movement in solidarity.
“Twenty of us drove through Hyderabad in our private vehicles. We participated in a rally in Hyderabad with around 100 farmers. Then we drove up north and were stopped at the Rajasthan border for two days. We reached just this morning and are scattered across the different Delhi borders. There are more who want to join us but since the journey is not an easy one, they are beginning to protest in their states.” He added that farmers from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are making efforts to reach Delhi. “The issues we are fighting for do not pertain only to farmers of one or two states but to all of us,” he said.
Farmers from Punjab also reasoned that they have been the loudest so far because they have the most to lose in the event of erosion of the MSP regime.
“In other states, the condition of farmers is far worse than us — MSPs and mandis aren’t largely functional. In 2006, the Bihar government had rolled back its APMC act and its farmers are in a bad state and people from the state travel all across the country to work as migrant labourers. While the MSP for paddy is Rs 1,868 per quintal, there it sells for Rs 1,100 per quintal. In our states, the APMCs and mandis are functional and we know what their benefits can be. So we don’t want to lose it,” said Jeevan Singh from Punjab’s Muktsar district, part of the blockade at Tikri border.