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Monday, September 21, 2020

To oppose Centre’s agri ordinances, farmers hold Lalkar rallies in 5 Punjab districts

On Tuesday, agitating farmer organisations have planned a Chakka Jam (road blockade) at two dozen places across Punjab.

Written by Raakhi Jagga , Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar, Ludhiana | Updated: September 15, 2020 11:55:45 am
Farmers block the Beas bridge near Amritsar in protest, on Monday. (Express Photo: Rana Simranjit Singh)

Ten farmer outfits organised Lalkar rallies in five Punjab districts – Barnala, Moga, Patiala, Amritsar and Phagwara — against Centre’s farm ordinances on Monday calling “anti-farmer polices a bigger threat than Covid-19”.

Farmers also blocked several roads, including the Amritsar-Delhi national highway. On Tuesday, agitating farmer orgnistations have planned a Chakka Jam (road blockade) at two dozen places across the state. In addition to this, Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) will start an “pakka morcha” at the Badal village and in Patiala from Tuesday.

Meanwhile, dharnas at different district headquarters are also going on in the state for the past several days. The next meeting of ten farmer unions will be held on September 16 in Ludhiana so as to decide the future course of action.

The farmers are demanding a roll back of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

Explained | Three ordinances and a protest: Why Haryana and Punjab farmers are angry

National highway blocked

Members of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee blocked the Amritsar-Delhi national highway at the Beas bridge, about 40 km from Amritsar. They also blocked traffic at the Harike headworks in Tarn Taran and the Tanda-Hargobindpur bridge in Hoshiarpur. Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee president Satnam Singh Pannu said the farm ordinances would “destroy” the farming community and they should be withdrawn.

Lalkar rallies

The Lalkar rallies, which were organised by the ten farm outfits under the banner of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordinator Committee (AIKSCC), saw an impressive turnout of farmers.

The biggest rally was held at Barnala where three resolutions were passed in which farmer unions asked Shiromani Akali Dal to clear its stand on ordinances.

“Either they should protest against the Narendra Modi government by breaking their alliance or they should stop shedding crocodile tears as they have already supported three ordinances and the proposed Electricity Act,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, AIKSCC working committee member.

He added,” In addition to this, we want free treatment for all farmers injured in Haryana during police lathicharge and even withdrawal of FIRs against them. Third resolution is for immediate and unconditional release and cancellation of cases registered against intellectuals, lawyers, social activists, and anti-CAA agitators arrested under draconian laws such as UAPA etc throughout the country.”

During the protest on September 14, 2020. (Express Photo: Rana Simranjit Singh)

Speaking about rallies being held at the time of a surge in Covid cases, Jagmohan said: “We held over 200 meetings where we discussed coronavirus pandemic, social distancing etc. However, later we decided that Covid can kill up to 2 per cent of affected patients, but ordinances will kill our 3 generations, hence we are ready to break the Covid protocols to come out on roads and gather in large numbers.”

“Centre did not consult any state government before issuing these ordinances, which have far-reaching consequences for our agricultural sector. Small and marginal farmers having less than 5 acres of land holdings are more than 86 per cent of total farming community and they are already under heavy debt trap,” said farmer leader Ruldu Singh Mansa.

Addressing farmers, speakers at the Barnala rally accused Centre of “implementing anti-farming policies mandated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) through its Bali (Indonesia) conference, adding that these policies would benefit corporate and deepen the farm crisis further.

At the Phagwara Lalkar rally, farmers from four districts of Doaba region — Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr — gathered at the local grain market with only a few wearing masks and little social distancing.

“Coronavirus is not that dangerous, the policies of the Centre governments are,” said a speaker at the rally, adding that now the government must understand that “it cannot stop us by raising Covid fear”.

Farm outfits said that Phagwara was picked as a venue because BJP MP and Union Minister of State Som Parkash, who is MP from Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha Constituency, is from Phagwara and they wanted to send a clear message to the Centre.

Amrik Singh Nijjar, the district president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union Kadian, said that farmers will not stop here and on Tuesday they will organise “Chakka Jam” at the National highway –Amritsar-Delhi-near Phagwara’s Sugar Mill from 12:00 noon and 2:00 pm on Tuesday. Farmers at the rally venue raised anti-Modi slogans and accused Centre of being laws that were running agriculture.

“We need full MSP of our crops as one can see the maize’ MSP was Rs 1,850 per quintal this year but farmers are getting Rs 800 to 900 per quintal from the private players and the same would be the fate of wheat and paddy when the government will not purchase it and farmers would be solely dependent on the private players,” said a farmer leader, Santokh Singh.

The Congress-led government in the state, which is spearheading a campaign against the ordinances, had described these ordinances as a “blatant attack” on the federal structure. On August 28, the Punjab Assembly had passed a resolution, rejecting these farm ordinances. Punjab CM had earlier said these ordinances are not only against the interest of farmers and landless workers and time-tested agriculture marketing system established in the state, but are also against the Constitution.

(With inputs from PTI)

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